In 1994, I was captivated but a nice show about two angels named Monica and Tess who were occasionally joined by a tall, handsome fellow named Adam... who liked turkeys.  And Monica had an accent I envied.  And beautiful clothes.  And 12 year old me was happy.  I wanted to be Monica when I grew up.  Then, a year later, some blonde guy showed up.  And I wanted him to go away because Monica sure didn't seem to like him.  But he didn't go away.  He stayed... and I had my first serious crush.  And then Monica actually believed some reporter... who she'd just met, I might add... over Andrew.  Over her friend!  And Andrew was so beautiful...  And she kicked dirt on him ("Only Connect")!  Seriously!  What was her problem!?   But we all have bad days...  But then she snapped his suspenders ("Voice of an Angel")!  Rudely! 

Thus, bit by bit, did my affection for Monica get sidelined by my crush on the ever-lovely Andrew.  But deep down I still really liked Monica.  No, she wasn't perfect.  But she didn't have to be.  Only God is perfect.  And so while I'd get annoyed by her occasional lapses into snobbishness (seriously, show some respect for Ronald!) or emotional cluelessness (yes, it's totally okay to hug Tess like that while Andrew just stands there so you can all maybe get a page in Awkward Family Photos), I did like her.  But then "Netherlands" happened.  And, try as I might, I just can't accept that Monica.  I couldn't get over how a supposedly compassionate angel with this oh-so-wonderful heart could know that so many, many people had died and so many more were grieving and in need of comfort and yet leave.  I could not accept that she... who did not lose a child or a spouse or a parent or a friend... could have a woe-is-me fest and dream about pregnancy as humanity grieved losses they would feel for decades.  My animosity towards this Monica got to the point that I could barely write her in stories.  But as Joshua approaches, I wanted to make peace with the character.  (The Dyeland twist on "Hurry and look busy!  Jesus is coming!")  So I wrote this.  And I came to realize that, with all due respect to the TBAA writers who wrote so many beautiful episodes and lines, what bugged me about "Netherlands" is that I really don't feel like that was "our Monica" in that episode.  She just seems terribly out of character to me.  I can't fathom that the angel who was ready to give up everything for Jean in "Liberty Moon"
just walked away from a dying child... and contemplated walking away from someone whose presence in her life I envied more than any accent or any dress.  So this story isn't about the Monica of "Netherlands."  This is about the Monica whose accent and clothes I loved and who I wanted to be when I grew up. 

Put bluntly: This is my twist on "Netherlands."  I had to alter a few things for reasons I explain at the end.  But mostly this is me just trying to find a way to keep what I can of "Netherlands" as part of the Dyeland universe and yet not have it seem quite so much like the Monica we know and love was replaced by a narcissistic doppelganger.  My default position when writing Dyeland has always been that the actual experiences of Andrew, Monica, Tess, and the others very, very closely mirrored what we saw on TBAA.  With this story, I take a slightly different approach but I hope I succeed in keeping it within the spirit of TBAA ("God loves you") and the spirit of Dyeland ("So love each other... tons.")

God bless,

The Coffee Summit

October 3, 2010

"Panera?  You pretty much kidnapped me so you could take me to Panera?" JenniAnn questioned as she looked up at the familiar logo.  She'd expected something a little more exotic and potentially scary when Tess had shown up at Willowveil and demanded she come along for a ride.

"At least they have good coffee," Monica opined as she exited the car and stood beside the woman.  "If you're going to be kidnapped, it helps if they have good coffee where you're being held."

JenniAnn smirked.  "This is true."  She turned around to face Tess' brand new purple... whatever the car was.  Even she had to admit it was pretty.  "Tess, aren't you getting out?"

Tess locked her car doors.  "No, I am not."

Monica frowned and turned back to the car.  "Tess, what's going on?  Are you all right?"

"I am all right.  But you two..."  Tess shot them a Look.  "You go on in there.  You tell them that you're here for the meeting room I reserved for you.  And you sit in there and you talk.  I've even left you talking points.  And I don't care how much coffee you drink.  All I care about is that you get yourselves through every last one of those talking points."  She kept up her stern demeanor but inside Tess was frantically praying.  The four words... the "talking points" she had written... made little sense to her but when the Father asked you to scrawl four words into a notebook, that's what you did.  She hoped Monica and JenniAnn could make sense of them.  They had to.

JenniAnn laughed.  "Talking points?  Tess, you make it sound like you're preparing us for some political speech."  She lowered her voice.  "I know the old princess title may have been misleading but I'm really not into politics."

"No politics, baby.  This is about love and friendship.  Look, I know you're both happy that my Angel Girl here has come back into the fold.  But there's a tension between the two of you that threatens that."

"Tess..." Monica protested.  She glanced over at JenniAnn who was staring at the sidewalk and kicking at a crack. 

"Don't you 'Tess...' me!  I see it and do you know what that means?  That means Andrew definitely sees it.  And no doubt knows that it started because of him.  So you will go in there and you will talk.  That boy doesn't need to deal with two people he loves being unable to say two words together to each other without getting snippy.  And you two...  I know you care about each other.  There wouldn't be hard feelings if you didn't.  So... I'll know when you're through and I'll come back to get you.  Good bye and godspeed, babies."  With that, Tess closed her window and hastened away as quickly as traffic allowed.

JenniAnn and Monica stared at the car until it disappeared around a corner.  Then, unable to avoid it any longer, they turned to each other.



Desperate for something to do to break the uncomfortable gaze, they both reached for the door. 

JenniAnn blinked.  "Oh, I was going to..."

"No, you first.  Please."  Monica smiled politely.

"Thank you."

The din in the restaurant comforted them both.  It was easy to get distracted by the servers milling around matching diner to dinner.  Then there was the inviting aroma of coffee, freshly baked bread, and savory soups. 

"Maybe we could just sit out here in the main area?" JenniAnn asked hopefully.  "Look, there's a cozy spot by the fire."

Reluctantly, Monica shook her head.  "Tess said she reserved a meeting room.  I think we need to go in there or..."

"Or else."


"Can I help you?" a brightly smiling woman behind the pastry counter asked.

JenniAnn mutely nodded while Monica approached, flashing a smile and glancing at the woman's name tag.  "Yes, please, Geri.  A friend reserved a meeting room for my... my friend here and me.  I'm not sure..."

"Oh right!  Tess?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"It's that room across the way near the pop fountain.  Can I get you ladies anything before you get down to business?  I highly recommend the Pumpkin Spice Latte."

JenniAnn eyes lit up and she approached the counter.  "First round's on me.  I'd love one of those with extra caramel, please, and a cinnamon scone.  Monica?"

"Could I please have a blueberry muffin and a Caffe Mocha?"

"Coming right up!"

Monica smiled shyly.  "Thank you, JenniAnn."

"My pleasure."  JenniAnn handed her credit card to Geri then began to peruse a catering flier while Monica feigned an interest in the calorie counts on a menu.

Unbeknownst to either angel or woman, they were being closely watched by a man in the back corner of the main dining area.  He noticed when JenniAnn nervously twisted her Claddagh ring around her finger.  He sighed when he saw Monica's hand slip into her pocket and close around the watch there.  He knew what they didn't know.  JenniAnn and Monica believed Andrew was at the root of their disagreements.  Their varying views of the angel of death had definitely driven a wedge between the two.  However, their observer knew the truth: he was the real reason for the simmering resentment between them. 

Joshua briefly closed his eyes and let their shared past wash over him.

He saw Andrew beaming proudly as he first introduced Monica and Tess to "the girls."  Joshua smiled over the awkward initial encounter between JenniAnn and Monica.  Then he saw their friendship blossom as the young woman and the caseworker bonded over caffeine, Ireland, and clothes.  But their friendship had not been shallow.  Several nights over mugs of mocha and serenaded by the strains of Enya and Loreena McKennitt, JenniAnn and Monica talked about God and about their hopes and dreams.  They confided in each other about the naivete they both tried to shed but never entirely escaped.  Monica cheered when JenniAnn graduated college and JenniAnn threw a party on the anniversary of Monica's promotion.  Then things began to change. 

The crack in their friendship started when JenniAnn's concern that Monica was too careless with Andrew's feelings had met with Monica's belief that JenniAnn was far too concerned with the angel of death to be healthy for either of them. 
This gave way to questioning glances, annoyed grimaces, too many words unsaid and too many questions unasked.  And then, during a visit over coffee in 2008, that crack had widened to a chasm.

Joshua peered into his cup of tea and remembered the moment that JenniAnn had learned something of what had passed between Satan and Monica in the desert... the day of that terrible shooting. 

"Here's your order!"

Geri's chirping voice pulled Joshua back to the present.  He looked up in time to see JenniAnn and Monica grab their treats and drinks and make their way into the meeting room. 

Now he could only wait until it was time to make his move. 


JenniAnn stirred her coffee, letting it melt the mound of whipped cream and caramel sauce.  "I don't really know why we're here.  I mean we talked on the ship." 

Monica nodded.  "Yes, we did.  But never alone.  Not really.  Would you have said more were Rose, C.J., Yva, and Lady Beth not there?"

"Well, yeah, I guess.  Would you have?"


Sighing, JenniAnn reached for a notebook in the center of the table.  "Well then... let's see what points we're supposed to talk a...  Babies?  We're supposed to talk about babies?"

Incredulous, Monica shifted so she could see Tess' writing.  Surely Tess wouldn't do this to her...  But there, plain as could be, was the word.

"What do babies have to do with this?" JenniAnn asked.  Then she recalled the pitying look Monica had given her on the cruise.  "Oh..."

The angel took a long sip of her coffee then began.  "I... I've always struggled with understanding how you could so easily give up the opportunity to... to meet someone and get married and have children and..."

JenniAnn jolted.  "Ea-easy?  You think..."

Monica saw the woman's hands briefly rest over her womb and with that knew she had spoken wrongly.  "I... I'm sor..."

The woman's eyes narrowed.  "You are aware of where babies come from, aren't you?"

Affronted, Monica straightened up.  "Of course."

"So what would you have had me do?  Sleep with... marry... some guy I didn't love just so I could get pregnant?"

"I didn't mean..."

Hot tears splashed down JenniAnn's face.  "And how could you ever think it was easy?  You think it's been easy to watch my friends'... my cousins' bellies grow and see them show off ultrasound pictures?  A-and do you think it was easy to be in high school and college a-and hear girls talk about taking the morning after pill and to know they'd thrown away the chance at something I know I'll never have?  I love Andrew.  And I... I would never sleep with anyone I didn't love.  I don't regret my choices... but they were never easy, Monica."

Silently, Monica replayed the woman's words: "Thrown away the chance at something I know I'll never have..."  That was exactly what she thought JenniAnn had done.  But she was wrong.  Why hadn't she simply asked her about it?

JenniAnn continued, oblivious to the angel's thoughtful study.  "It's not just about Andrew, ya know.  I... I've never... I mean... I've never felt... never wanted...  But if it would have meant having a baby... I... I think I would have if not for... I may not be a very good Catholic b-but some things stick."

Monica began pushing bits of muffin around her plate as she tried to puzzle out the meaning of JenniAnn's words.  But she had no idea what she was trying to say.  "I'm afraid I don't understand.  Could you..."

JenniAnn laughed darkly.  "Of course you don't."

Monica's fork clattered into her plate.  "Stop that!"

"Stop what?"

"I'm trying to understand you and instead of giving me the benefit of an explanation all you do is mutter something like you think I'm stupid.  At least this time you can't wander of into another room and shut me out!"

JenniAnn's eyes shot up to meet the angel's.  She felt chastened when she saw the unshed tears there.  "I... I don't think you're stupid, Monica.  I don't.  I'm sorry.  But..."


"Sometimes I... I feel like you lump us humans altogether a-and I have enough problems feeling like... like my fellow humans see me as an outsider with... without thinking an angel doesn't think I'm a proper human, either."

Sighing, Monica shook her head.  "Of course I think you're a proper human, JenniAnn!  Why would you think otherwise?"

"Sometimes... like even now... you make it seem like... like I should want things I don't.  Yes, I wish I could have children.  But I...  Everyone just assumes that I want to date a-and get married and have... have sex.  And sometimes you make it seem like it's somehow pathetic that I don't have any of that.  But I... I don't want it.  I probably... I mean if Andrew weren't around and if I didn't believe as I do... I probably would have tried to get pregnant but... but only because I wanted the baby... not the man."

Monica was thoroughly confused.  "Are you saying you're... gay?"

"No.  I'm saying I'm just... not.  I... I love Andrew.  And I am... I'm in love with him.  My heart races when he enters the room a-and yet all at once I feel calmer when he's there.  Safer.  More... more myself.  And everything about him...  His compassion, his determination, his loyalty, his faith... even the way he has a hard time keeping his hands still sometimes and the way his hand brushes through his hair and then... then the way it feels when he hugs me or... or when we dance and my head fits perfectly under his chin but... but even if I could sleep with him I..."  JenniAnn shook her head.

Monica sighed.  How had she missed this?  There had been times... before things had become rocky between them... when she would vent her frustration about an adulterer or philanderer to JenniAnn.  She had always hoped for some explanation, some theory from her human friend that might have shed some light on her assignments' behavior.  JenniAnn always looked attentively at her but there would be something... blank.  No.  More than blank.  Confused.  As if she were asking JenniAnn to explain the psychology of a zebra and the girl could find no point of reference.  Finally, Monica understood why.  JenniAnn was asexual... and Monica realized that, without meaning to, she had given her the impression that this was somehow inhuman.  How many times when Andrew had come up between the two had Monica replied with words that assumed the woman wanted more than he could give... that she should have wanted more?

JenniAnn was surprised when Monica's hand rested over hers. 

"You're a proper human.  You're the woman God created you to be, JenniAnn.  And I'm sorry if I ever gave the impression you weren't.  I just didn't know and so, yes, I did make some generalizations.  But please believe me when I say that had I known, I would never have said many of things I did.  I wouldn't have.  But why didn't you tell me this?"

Shrugging, JenniAnn replied quietly.  "I'd never really told anyone.  Andrew knows.  Now.  I told him this past February.  He was..."  Her face relaxed into a dreamy smile.  "Lovely."

Monica smiled, too, but something inside her lurched.  There was no road block between the two now... nothing to stop Andrew and JenniAnn from continuing on as they were.  Forever.  The angel knew she should be happy but why...


Monica blinked.  "Pardon?"

"Sorry.  I peeked ahead.  Tess wrote 'Jealousy' next.  That... that's probably mostly on me.  I spent years so incredibly jealous of you and Tess for being able to be with Andrew so often... to work with him.  And then..."  JenniAnn stared down at her ring.  "Then when it seemed like sometimes you maybe weren't as attentive as I was sure I would have been... well, like I've said before, I got resentful.  And I'm sorry for that.  I... I can't say I completely understand but I do appreciate the explanations you gave us on the ship and I do... well, I'm trying to understand.  And I do know that when you were working assignments, Andrew wasn't your main focus... rightly so.  But I did... I wished I could have been with him, too."

"I wish you could have been, too.  Sometimes.  But you deserved to enjoy those years without..."  Monica carefully considered her words.  "JenniAnn, you were friends with an angel of death.  What you knew of pain, of grief, of death was already so much more than many of your peers.  You deserved to have your growing up years free of constantly facing those things head-on.  And I think it meant so much to Andrew to be able to return to Dyeland and find you there.  I know it meant a lot to him when he would confide in you and you would listen and comfort him.  But I don't think it would have been easy for him to know your college years were being spent dealing with... with the sometimes terrible things he had to face with assignments.  And I know..."  Wistful, the caseworker recalled her last years working with Andrew.  "I was there sometimes, you know, when he would write to you.  No matter what was happening, in those moments he looked... peaceful, content.  I think it helped Andrew to know that whatever we were dealing with, you were tucked safely away on your campus or in Willowveil or Below... learning, writing... doing exactly what you should have been doing at the ripe old age of nineteen."

JenniAnn laughed.  "I was pretty young, wasn't I?"

"Ah yes.  Still are.  But... it makes sense to me that the Father does let you share in Andrew's assignments on occasion now.  He knows you can handle them."

"Thank you.  It means a lot that you think that, Monica.  Well, I guess that handles jealous so..."

Monica held her hand out to stop JenniAnn from flipping the page.  "No.  It doesn't."

Confused, JenniAnn looked up at the angel.  After a few moments of watching Monica stir her coffee, a memory returned to her.  "Oh right.  Sorry.  Did you want to talk more about your being jealous of us?  I did understand it, Monica.  I still do."

"No.  Not... no.  You don't.  There... there's something I didn't say on the ship."

"Did you want to say it now?"

Monica nodded.  "But it has to do with that day..."

"What day?"

When Monica looked up, there were tears in her eyes.  "The day we talked about the last time we did this... over two years ago."

JenniAnn felt her whole body tense.  "Okay," she choked out.

"There... there was a man."  The caseworker peered down at the grain of the table.  "Gloria and I met him in a Goodwill store shortly before the... the shooting.  His name was... is... Arthur... Arthur Reese.  I didn't... still don't... know how to describe it but when I met him... I felt... something I never had before.  A-and with an intensity I'd never felt with... with a human.  And I think... I think he felt something, too."

JenniAnn began to shift uncomfortably in her chair. 

When the movements jostled her coffee, Monica looked up and blushed.  "It wasn't...  I know it wasn't desire that I felt.  At least not... not romantic desire.  But I felt a connection.  As if... if I'd only had some time with him... he might have... we might have been like what you and Andrew are to each other.  It... it gets so lonely sometimes and yet I don't feel like I can go Home and leave all the suffering behind.  I know Andrew feels the same.  But he... you both... you've found an... an in-between.  Those times when he's hurt but still feels so bound to humanity... he comes to you or one of your friends.  A-and you hug him and talk to him and bring him a little of Home even here.   And I... I'm jealous of that."

JenniAnn was silent as she let the words sink in.  She had been so blind.  She had long assumed that Monica was jealous of the friendships she and the other girls had with Andrew.  But it had never occurred to her that Monica might long for her own version of the life they'd made together.  "Did you ever go back?  Did you try to talk to him?  To Arthur?"

The angel shook her head.

"Why not?"

"What could I have said?  'Hullo, I'm an angel.  And I think we're kindred spirits of a sort.  I can't be romantically involved with you but I'd really like to be in your life'?" 

JenniAnn bit her lip and considered this.  "Well... if Andrew had done that then I definitely think I would have gone for it."

"You saw Andrew when you were four.  For almost your entire life, you were waiting for him.  Arthur would be completely blindsided.  If he remembers me at all, he just thinks I'm some quirky woman who turned down his dinner invitation."

"A lot of guys like quirky women," JenniAnn tried.

Monica swiped at a tear and smiled, touched by the attempt to cheer her.  She let out a shaky breath.  "Yes.  But...  The sacrifice...  You know it.  I wouldn't... I mean I'd just like to be Arthur's friend and I wouldn't have minded his having a girlfriend or wife.  But do you really think... if you'd..."  She halted.  Perhaps it was a line she shouldn't cross with JenniAnn.

"If I'd what?  Tell me.  For all I know, if you don't bring it up then the talking points will."

Monica smirked.  "True.  If you had stayed with Eliot, do you think he would have been okay with the closeness between you and Andrew?"

JenniAnn exhaled sharply.  "Umm...  Well...  Eliot's a wonderful guy.  I know he would have never tried to cut Andrew out of my life.  But, yes, I think it would have bothered him.  Andrew and I...  There's an emotional intensity that... that I don't feel with anyone else.  That I definitely didn't feel with El.  I think it would be hurtful to be in a relationship with someone and know they felt that with someone else... not you.  I wouldn't have blamed Eliot for feeling that.  It would have been only natural.  So... so that's why I pulled away from Andrew while I was trying to make that work."

"And how did you feel then?"

JenniAnn thought.  "Like an imposter.  I just... I wanted to be like everyone else.  But turns out the price for that would have been, well, not being me."

"So... so if I'd approached Arthur, I'd either be asking him to give so much up or... or possibly live as an imposter?"

"Possibly.  But maybe... maybe if he truly did feel that connection...  Monica, for thirteen years I lived my life feeling like there was a crucial piece missing.  On my more reasonable days, I am grateful for those years because they've made me better appreciate what I have now.  But if that connection was real... was true... maybe Arthur has been wandering through life feeling that missing piece... unhappily and, to him, seemingly pointlessly.  Have you had Ronald check his record?"

Monica nodded.

"And?  Is he married?  Engaged?  Dating?"

The angel shook her head.

JenniAnn's eyes lit up.  "Then you should go see him!"

"I... I don't think so."

"Well, why not?  The worst that could happen is he doesn't recognize you and then at least you'd know that maybe... well, maybe it wasn't what you thought it was."

"What if... what if he asked me about what happened that day?  What I did during it?"

Again JenniAnn felt every muscle in her body tense.  How could she answer?  She'd never forgiven Monica for that day.


Joshua gulped down the last few sips of his tea.  After clearing the table, he returned and edged a ten dollar bill under a small sign advertising breakfast specials.  Stanley, who wiped down the tables, had given his dinner money to his son who needed it for a field trip.  That would take care of his dinner.

Making his way back to the pastry counter, Joshua smiled at a toddler who stared at him with wide eyes.  He winked and wiggled his nose, causing her to erupt in a peal of laughter.  Her parents looked at her curiously but shrugged it off as infantile eccentricity.  

"Can I get you something else, sir?" Geri asked once Joshua had reached her. 

"Yes, please.  I'd like two chocolate chip bagels with cream cheese and two cartons of milk to go.  And then I'd also like to get a couple drinks for the ladies in the meeting room.  A Caffe Mocha and a Pumpkin Spice Latte... extra caramel, please."

"That'll be $11.47.  Friends of yours, I take it?"

"Family," Joshua replied with a smile as he counted out the cash.

Geri smiled.  "How nice! 
I'll grab everything for your to go bag and then get the ladies their drinks."

"Thank you."  Joshua waited patiently, gazing around and willing his love to each diner and server.

"All righty then, two chocolate chip bagels with cream cheese, two milks, a Caffe Mocha and a Pumpkin Spice Latte," Geri announced.

Joshua turned back around.  "Thank you, Geri."  He briefly grabbed the two coffees then set them down.  "Actually, do you think you could bring these to them?  I'm meeting my kid in the park and need to be on my way."

"Sure thing.  Should I give them a name?"

"Jack.  Please tell them they're from Jack."

"Well, thank you, Jack, for your business.  You have a good day now."

"Thank you, Geri.  God bless you."

Geri beamed.  "Well, thank you, young man.  Good bye."

"Until next time!"

Grabbing the bag containing the bagels and milk, Joshua stepped outside.  He made his way to a park and settled onto a bench to wait.  Once again, he revisited the past. 


March 8, 2008

Monica entered the Cafe in Dyeland and drank in the delightful scent of coffee mingling with chai.  Seated near the fireplace, JenniAnn enthusiastically waved to her.  Soon the two were settled with their coffee and engrossed in conversation about the upcoming anniversary/St. Patrick's Day party and recent happenings in their lives and those of their mutual friends.  Then it happened.

"Well, I really am so glad you could make it today, Monica!" JenniAnn enthused.  "I needed to see you.  Earlier I was watching a Touched episode that I really shouldn't have.  It always makes me so agitated and for no good reason because it has to be one of those ones the writers really took liberties with."

"Which one?"

"'Netherlands.'  'Monica' walked off a case after a bombing... totally turning her back on her friends and the victims... and ran into Satan."

Monica felt her stomach lurch.  She froze with her mug half way to her lips.  "Ah."

"I mean listening to 'Monica' moan and groan as people were suffering and then lumping all people together and saying we don't know how to love...  I just wanted to shake her."

Monica sunk against the back of her chair.

"I mean I can understand being angry and terribly upset but I can't imagine you ever contemplating going with that cretin and saying all..."  JenniAnn abruptly stopped speaking when she noticed a tear was trickling down the angel's cheek.  "Oh...  Oh, I'm sorry.  I know... Andrew had mentioned that there'd been a mass shooting shortly before that episode aired and you'd really struggled afterwards.  I didn't mean to bring that up.  Truly I didn't.  I'm sorry.  I wasn't thinking.  I'm sor..."

"I... I said those things."

"Wha-what?" JenniAnn choked out, feeling like someone had just thrown cold water over her.

"I... I felt so lost and confused and I didn't understand how the shooter..."

"There was one shooter, Monica.  A-and dozens of innocent victims.  Andrew... he... he was with one of them for... for hours before they were able to find her," JenniAnn reminded tersely.  "But it... it was too late to save..."

"I... I know but I felt like humans take so much for granted and he... he seemed to be holding out the possibility of..."  Monica's hand drifted to her stomach.

JenniAnn recoiled.  "Oh God."

"I... I was wrong.  I know I was...  JenniAnn, please try to... please just listen.  I..."

JenniAnn slid from her chair.  "I have to go.  I... I just remembered I was supposed to meet Catherine," she lied.

Monica watched, aghast, helpless, and confused, as JenniAnn bolted for the door.


Joshua again saw JenniAnn flee the Cafe and run with tear-filled eyes to Willowveil.  He also saw Monica shakily rise to her feet and sluggishly drag herself to the door.  Then she left Dyeland... not returning for nearly two years.

Joshua tilted his face towards the sun and sucked in a deep breath.  "Listen to each other," he whispered.  "Talk to each other.  Nothing held back.  Let it all out."


Let it all out.

JenniAnn focused on the words running through her mind.  Maybe now... maybe today... she could finally tell Monica.


The woman jumped.  "Huh?"

"Betrayal.  It's the next word Tess wrote."

JenniAnn reached for her cup.  Her throat felt dry and scratchy.  However, to her disappointment, she had drunk all of the coffee.  Then an idea occurred to her.  She could offer to go get round two and then sneak away and be done with this wretched mess of a conversation.  She was just opening her mouth to speak when someone knocked on the door.

Monica leapt to her feet to answer it.  "Oh, hello, Geri."

"Hi there!  A gentleman said to bring these in to you ladies."

JenniAnn's face lit up and she turned around to accept the cup.  Maybe she wouldn't need an escape plan.  Maybe she'd luck into a diversion... a wonderful diversion.  "Andrew?  Is Andrew here?"

Geri shook her head.  "No.  At least it wasn't Andrew who ordered these.  The fellow said to tell you they were from Jack."

"Jack?" JenniAnn questioned.

"Jack..." Monica murmured as cherished memories transported her back to an all-too-familiar field. 


March 2003

Inexplicably, there stood Jack... his flame-colored hair and freckled face beaming as the sun's rays surrounded him.  Monica opened her mouth to ask him how he'd escaped the jail cell but then his eyes... the soft green began to deepen into a familiar gold-flecked brown.  Stunned, Monica lowered her gaze to the ground and when she looked back up... Joshua.  "Jack" was Joshua.  Weeping and laughing at once, she ran to him.  She nearly tripped but Joshua's quick reflexes kept her steady.

"Careful, Monica.  You don't want to spend the first few weeks of your new gig on crutches," Joshua joked as he pulled her up and into a hug.

"You... you're... you're here and you're free and..."

Joshua chuckled.  "Yeah.  Putting me in a big stone box has never turned out quite like people expect it to."

Monica beamed.  "But why... why 'Jack'?"

"I knew that if you'd known it was me then, of course, you would have stayed with me.  But you didn't know Jack.  Well, you didn't know you knew Jack.  And you were willing to give up so much for him... for me.  Because you believed, you trusted, you loved.  I gave you the gift of truth, Monica, and you heeded it.  When everything suggested 'Jack' was guilty... when it would have been quite reasonable to turn your back on him... you held fast to that gift, to that truth.  I'm so proud of you for that and so much more, Monica.  And... I wanted to be here.  I love you so much and what parent doesn't want to be right there when their child reaches an important milestone?"

"I love you, too."  Monica nestled against his shoulder for a moment then stepped back just enough to peer up at Joshua.  "Milestone... new... new gig?"

"I have new work for you to do, Monica.  And I'll tell you more about it soon.  But first..."  Joshua gestured to where Andrew, Gloria, and Tess were waiting.  "Go speak to your friends.  And remember, Monica, we say 'Until next time'... not 'Good bye.'"  He squeezed her hand.  "Well done, my good and faithful servant and daughter."

Monica moved to her knees and bowed to her Lord.  When she felt his hand rest on her hair, she whispered a thank you and soaked in the words of his blessing.  Then, raising her head and finding Joshua gone... but not really gone... Monica went to her waiting friends.


"Jack," Monica repeated.

"That's what he said.  Well, it looks like I interrupted something... engrossing.  So... I'll let you girls be."  Geri stepped away and closed the door behind her.

JenniAnn stared at her latte.  "And again I ask... who is Jack?"

"The last assignment I had before my promotion," Monica explained.

"But that was..."  JenniAnn began to tremble.  "Are... are you telling me God bought us coffee?"

Monica nodded, her eyes twinkling.  "He even got your extra caramel part right."

Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes. 

"I... I think He means for us to finish this conversation.  Betrayal, JenniAnn.  What... what does that mean to you?"

"I felt..."  JenniAnn took a sip of her coffee, hoping it would dispel the lump in her throat.  Her hand closed tightly around the cardboard sleeve.  She wondered if He had touched it.  The mere idea gave her strength.  "I felt betrayed... by you."

Monica's eyes flashed as she looked at the woman.

"I wasn't lying on the ship.  I... I did really look up to you.  And do you have any idea how much it hurts to find out that someone you looked up to once thought.... thought you and your kind didn't know how to love?  Once lumped you and so many others into the same uncaring group as a coward with a semi-automatic?  I don't blame you or Andrew or Tess or Adam every time Satan does something terrible.  He was one of your own!" she shouted, tears streaming down her cheeks.  "I am sorry your heart broke that day but do you have even the slightest idea of how many human hearts broke that day?  We don't just say the words!  We mean them... not... not everyone.  But most... I have to believe most of us do.  And I am sorry for what you saw that day but you are not the only one to hear the shrieks of a mother who has learned her child is dead.  Others did that day!  Your own friends did!  There were mothers, fathers actually there that day who lost children a-and you left them!  You are not the only one to be filled with rage when you learn someone has taken precious lives from the world and you know that you can do nothing... nothing to bring a life into the world.  But did it even occur to you that while you were running away, people were losing the... the ones who... who they hoped to have children with?  Who they raised children with?  Who... who they loved so utterly?  Do you have any idea what is feels like to fear that your heart... your future... the love of your life may be lost?  They did!  You left them and you honestly think you can do better?"

Monica shook her head adamantly.  "No...  No!  I mean... I did.  But I was so... my thoughts... my memories... they... they felt distorted and..."  She began to weep.  "Of course now I know it was all so wrong!  And don't you think I still wonder how things might have been had I stayed?  How... how many people might I have comforted?  And my judgment... it was wrong.  Terribly, terribly wrong.  So often I have told my assignments not to judge others based on some slight, real or imagined, by another of the same race or religion or other group and then... then that's exactly what I did.  And I am sorry for that.  I was sorry for it that very day a-and I'm sorry that I didn't tell you the very day you learned the truth.  I know... I've felt the human capacity to love and to love truly and it is immense.  I was wrong to ever think otherwise.  B-but I was in pain, JenniAnn, and I... I was lost."

JenniAnn stood up and began to pace.  "I just don't understand it!  With everything you've seen... everything you've felt...  How... how could you?"

Monica bolted to her feet and placed herself in front of the woman, angry tears streaking down her cheeks.  "Of course, you wouldn't know anything about running away from someone who cared about you just because your feelings got hurt.  Oh... but you did.  I had never done anything to hurt you.  You were my friend!  And yet that day in the Cafe... you ran.  You didn't even give me a... a chance to... to explain and... and all your talk about communication a-and needing to share one's feelings.  What?  Is that only true for Andrew?"

"N-no..."  JenniAnn stumbled back into her chair.  "No..."  Just minutes ago she'd wanted to bolt again.  Monica was right.  She'd been a hypocrite.  "That... that was very wrong and I-I am sorry.  I should have... you deserved to be heard out but I just... I shut down and ran away because..."  In her unease and her sadness, JenniAnn had grabbed the notebook and without realizing it had flipped the page.  She blinked at the letters written there.  J-A-C-K.  "Oh God..."

After swiping at some tears, Monica drew closer to see why JenniAnn was staring so oddly at the page.  Her ivory skin grew even more pale. 

"I... I couldn't understand.  I still can't understand.  I was always so... so bothered by that last episode.  By how stilted and chilly 'Zack' and 'Monica' were.  I never wanted to talk to Andrew about it because I knew... he missed you and that day... he was and is so proud of you and happy for you but the separation that began on that day... it hurt."  JenniAnn sighed.  "But one day he got it out of me.  And he... he was very protective of your privacy but he said it wasn't like that.  That you and... and Jack, I guess, didn't act like that.  His exact words were 'It was the opposite of chilly.'"

Despite her reddened eyes and shaky voice, Monica smiled.  "It was."

"A-and He was there.  A-and you could touch Him and see Him and hear Him and... and I can't believe that was the first time."

"Oh no... not even close to the first time."

JenniAnn's fingers again tightened around her coffee cup.  "How... even for a second... could you contemplate an alternative?  I... I would give anything just... just for one... second.  I know He's with me.  I do.  Even... even when I'm angry or scared or despairing... I know He's there.  But it can be so hard to... to... you can't hug the wind.  I wish... I wish I had even a memory... one memory of... of Him.  I know I'm not perfect... far from it.  And I know... I know I've sinned and done things He doesn't like a-and even hurt Him.  Badly.  But I never... I've always known... there is no better.  There is... is nothing good out... outside of... Him.  You... you've seen His face and felt His touch and... and I don't understand how... how could you think you could go on apart from Him?  And if you could think of leaving Him then... then how much easier to leave imperfect us?"

As she searched for a response, Monica watched the woman.  She looked on curiously as JenniAnn slipped the cardboard sleeve off her coffee cup and slid it into her purse.  For a few moments, the angel allowed herself to be distracted by this strange behavior.  Then, aching, she understood it.  JenniAnn thought either Joshua or the Father had touched the sleeve.  And maybe Joshua had.  But regardless the action was both pathetic and endearing... and it highlighted everything JenniAnn had said.  Stricken, Monica bowed her head.  Countless times Monica had felt Joshua's embrace, heard Him lovingly call her name, seen His eyes dance as He smiled tenderly at her... and yet she had considered leaving Him.  And JenniAnn had a coffee sleeve that He may or may not have touched... and she wouldn't leave Him.  No wonder she was angry. 

Monica let out a shuddering sigh.  "There is nothing I can say to you that will explain that day.  I... I can't really explain it myself.  When I think back... I'm appalled at my own actions, my own thoughts, my own words.  I can promise you that I will never turn my back on God.  Never again will I turn my back on humanity.  But I'm sorry, JenniAnn, that I can offer you no proof of that promise, no explanation for what happened in the desert.  It... it was beyond description and even if I could describe it... I wouldn't."

JenniAnn at last looked up at the angel.  She noted the regret, the sadness, and... yes, there was more.  Tenderness.  Monica truly felt for her, understood her.  Now if only she could...  She could!  She could understand Monica and move past this pain and distrust... if Monica... and God... would help her.  "You... you have a gift.  You can see people's pasts.  Right?"

Not sure where this was going, Monica nodded.

"Can... can it work in reverse?  If you allow it... can someone see your past?"

The caseworker blinked.  "I... I don't know.  I've never asked."

"Will you?  Ask, I mean?  Maybe if... you say you can't explain it to me... what happened that day... but what if I could see it?  Then... then I could understand a-and I could trust.  And Andrew wouldn't be troubled by us a-and things could go back to how... how they used to be.  Monica, I... I miss how things used to be."

"Absolutely not!  I miss... I very much miss our... our friendship as it used to be but to subject you to..."

"Please," JenniAnn begged.  "Please just ask.  If He says no then I won't say another word.  Please, Monica."

Sure of what the answer would be, Monica closed her eyes and prayed.  She was shocked by the response.  "He... He says yes."

"Thank You," JenniAnn whispered.  "So how... what do I do?"

"Just... just give me your hand."

JenniAnn took the angel's hand.

Monica set her other hand over the woman's.  "You're sure?"


The angel closed her eyes, bowed her head, and prayed.

JenniAnn gasped.


For a moment, Monica was confused.  She'd expected to remain in the meeting room but she was in a chapel.  It appeared to be a hospital chapel.  The door squeaked open and the angel turned to see JenniAnn enter the room.  As soon as her eyes locked on the woman, Monica felt her heart begin to ache.  Everything ached.  A pain seemed to radiate from her chest to the very tips of her fingers.  And she felt tired... so tired.  She just wanted to... die.  No, JenniAnn wanted to die but her feelings, her thoughts... they consumed Monica.

Monica swayed forward as a sob racked her entire body.  She fell to her knees.  When she regained control of herself, she saw that JenniAnn was kneeling in front of the cross.

"I... I didn't want to leave him.  B-but I have some things I need to say to him, Father.  Things that... that are for him alone.  So if you could just... if you could let Andrew hear this... please."

Hearing those words, Monica knew where she was... or rather when she was.  This was November 2009... the night a homeless Andrew had been beaten.  This was during that wretched space of time when those of Andrew's friends who were near him then hadn't known what damage he had sustained in the attack... they only knew he was unconscious.

"I'm afraid that... that...  I know bad things can happen to angels, too.  So... so if something... if everything's not all right... I need you to know that I will be there.  And I will help you however you need me to.  I won't ever leave you.  I will make a home of this hospital or any other.  So long as you are there." 

Monica stretched up, trying to draw breath into her body just as the woman raggedly sucked in air.  She felt so confused, so lost, so... homeless.  Where was Andrew?  Andrew had to wake up.  He had to be okay.  If he wasn't... where would she go?  How would she continue... knowing he no longer shared her world?

"My love, if you need to move on... if this is the beginning of a new path for you... a path apart from mine then know this: I will always love you.  And no matter how long I walk this earth... with or... or... without you... that will always be true.  And I will never, ever forget you."

Monica felt something... something like she had felt only once before... 2,000 years ago.  A grief that pierced to the very deepest parts of her being, a grief born of losing someone who had always been there.  She felt as if her very soul was being halved and the part she was left with throbbed.

"From the day I was born... I have lived in a world blessed by his presence.  H-how am I sp-sposed to w-wake up tomorrow in a w-world that he might not... No..."

Monica felt her whole body began to shake.  She toppled forward and when she opened her eyes, she saw that JenniAnn, too, lay in a sobbing heap on the floor.

"Andrew, you have to come back.  You have to.  Or... or you have to come and take me with you.  I can't... don't leave me here without you.  Andrew... my love..."

Monica's teeth began to chatter and she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to find warmth.  But she couldn't find it... couldn't find him.

God.  She just wanted to be with God and with Andrew and to make the pain stop.


JenniAnn stood beside Monica, taking in the tender scene of two enamored parents watching their little girl at play. 

"Imagine... this life could be yours, Monica.  You, Arthur, little Tess there... and a son on the way.  Imagine it, Monica.  Feel it... all that love."

JenniAnn looked at the man.  He smiled so gently...  He reminded her of... with a shock, she realized she couldn't remember.  She should ask Monica but... that tenderness, the love beckoned.  She stared at the couple and drank in the scent of lilacs.  And then she herself felt the warmth of Arthur's embrace. 

No.  This wasn't real.  The man wasn't real.  Arthur wasn't real.  This was...  She needed...  She tried to grasp onto something but at the very thought of grasping, the object she intended to grasp onto fled her mind.

And then she felt it.  A swift kick.  The baby.

Baby.  Crying.  Someone had been crying.  Crying for her.  She needed to get back to...

"So many of them take it all for granted, you know.  They have children and then they neglect them.  Abuse them even."

A tear slid down Monica's cheek as she gasped and a hand flew to her chest while the other remained protectively over her stomach.

JenniAnn felt her belly lurch and her heart ached.  They did... all the time...  No, that wasn't right.  There were good people.  Good parents.  She tried to conjure their memory.  She knew them.  There had been that couple... the ones with the van... no, not a van...  The Blues?  No... no.  She was making things up.  She was confused.  Why was she so confused?

The soothing voice continued.  "But you... you would be a wonderful mother.  And a good wife, too.  Arthur... now there's a good man.  Works at the Goodwill.  Volunteers with the Red Cross.  He even reads books to little old ladies and gents at the old folks' home.  You could really love him and he would love you immensely.  You two... oh you wouldn't be like the others, Monica... not like them with their cheating on each other, lying, nitpicking, screaming, hitting...  You'd do so much better."

But that wasn't right.  JenniAnn shook her head, miming Monica.  There were beautiful couples who truly loved each other like... like...  Well, hadn't she just seen an older gentleman cradling his wife and...  She should find him, help them.  Who were they?  No.  There was no one.  But, yes, there was.  People she loved who she had left back... back there... with the dying.   With the work of that hateful man...  Yes, she would do better.  She and Arthur...  Her lips unpursed and she spoke.

"They don't know how to love...  They say they do... say the words... but they don't know how to love."

She felt a twinge of regret when she said it.  But, no, she was right.  They didn't know how to love.  They killed and tortured and neglected and they'd even killed...


Distant, so distant, someone was calling and for a moment the scene... the family began to fade and... brown and gold... something brown and gold.  Someone?

In unison, the two women turned away from the scene and looked... searching for something or someone.

The man grimaced and as he gripped Monica's shoulder, JenniAnn felt a heavy weight on her own.

Blasts of gunfire.  And screaming and blood and... they needed help... but who were they?  Where were they? 

They were inside the house now.  The family laughed around the dinner table.  Tess laid her ear against her mother's belly and grinned.

"I can feel him!"

JenniAnn and Monica sighed.

"Look at how safe and cozy they are.  You could keep them safe always, Monica.  So... what would you call the little guy?"

Both women smiled at the man, enchanted by the possibilities behind the question. 

"Monica!  I'm here!  Monica, I love you!"

The faint, familiar voice again. 

Monica and JenniAnn looked at the man.  Together they blinked as if awaking from a spell and answered in one voice.  "Joshua."

The man's face contorted.  His hand dug into Monica's arm and JenniAnn felt the burn.

"No!" Monica shouted.

The scene evaporated and now they were in a canyon.  A beautiful, sweetly seductive voice sang.  The man was still there but some distance away.

"'No one is alone...'"

Feeling weak but determined, Monica climbed with JenniAnn aping every movement as they made their way further up and up the canyon.

"Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for my anger."

"Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the wood..."

Monica's voice grew steadier and louder as she tried to drown out the demon.  "Forgive me for leaving my friends... Tess, Andrew, wee Gloria.  Forgive me for letting one man's actions drown out the beauty of Your creation.  For-forgive me for judging them for not appreciating Your... Your gifts when I've been doing the same.  Forgive me for turning my back on them when you'd sent me to them, knowing they would need word of Your... Your love.  I do... I do love them.  They're... they're Yours.  How could I not?  Father, please... please take me back.  Please let me continue to help them..."

"Someone is on your side.  Someone else is not..."

Monica thought of little Madeline and her mother who struggled so to keep her daughter from recognizing their plight.  She thought of the older gentleman and his wife, of their love which had stretched through and filled decades.  "Father!  Father!  I know... I know... I remember now that they... they do love.  Tremendously.  Father, I am so sorry.  I... I love You.  I love You...  I love You."

"Hard to see the light n..."

Mid-word the singing stopped.  The two women had reached the pinnacle of the canyon and there, among the rocks, a lilac bush sprang up.

Monica laughed and wept and reached for the heavens... for Home. 

JenniAnn smiled.


JenniAnn and Monica opened their eyes simultaneously.

"Are you all right?" Monica asked.

JenniAnn was silent for a few moments.  She clamored for the cross around her neck.  It was still there.  He was still there.  It had been His voice calling for Monica.  She had tried to hear Him.  She truly had.  But everything had been so... indescribably awful.  Finally, JenniAnn nodded.  "Are you?"


"Why... why didn't you tell me how awful it was?  I... I couldn't... my memories.  I... I couldn't even summon a single memory of... of God.  This... this whole time I've assumed that you had full recollection a-and sanity but...  No."

"You... you ran away before I could and then... then how could I come to you and tell you?  Who would want someone to even have to consider such a thing... unless they absolutely insisted on it."  Monica's lips curved into a slight smile.

JenniAnn blushed.  "It... it hurt so badly b-but I don't regret it because now... now I'm sorry that I was so harsh.  You... you said those things about us because he... that terrible thing... he made it impossible to remember us as... as we are.  But I felt... I felt you trying to.  Even trying to get back to those... those poor people.  A-and you could contemplate turning from God b-because even your memories of Him... just... just beyond reach."

Monica brushed away a tear and nodded.

"Did you... did you have to relive it all while... while I was there?"


"So you stayed here?"

Monica reached for the woman's hand.  "I... JenniAnn, I was in the chapel at St. Vincent's... with you... last November." 

The woman's eyes clamped shut.  What a wreck she had been...

"You... you were upset with me for once thinking that humans don't know how to love.  But I... I felt the... the love you felt that night.  Love so complete that the loss of it... the mere possibility of losing it... made... made even breathing agony.  I won't forget.  I'll never forget what I saw, what I felt."

"Neither will I.  I promise."

"And I will never... never say anything more about or even feel anything more about your being better off with... with someone else and not Andrew because..."

"Because I don't wear the banshee look so well?"

Monica laughed.  "I was going to say because now I know what you'd feel like apart from him.  But, no, you really don't wear the banshee look very well."

JenniAnn grinned.



"I think... I mean we're going to be all right now, aren't we?"

"I... I really think so.  I want us to be.  I... I really did miss you."  Once more, tears flooded JenniAnn's eyes. 

Monica stood and held her hand out to help the woman to her feet and then, finally, they hugged.

"I'm glad we were kidnapped," Monica mused.

JenniAnn laughed.  "You mean Tess just yanked you into her car, too?"

"Yes.  I, uh, well... I just thought we were going for a drive.  A nice, scenic drive through the country.  But this... I think this turned out to be better."  She beamed.

"Much better.  And actually... I would like to propose something."


"I think one day every October we should come here.  And we should celebrate the... the day we became friends again.  We can call it..."  JenniAnn searched the room, trying to find some inspiration.  Her gaze landed on the divinely purchased coffees.  "Coffee Summit Day."

"I'm up for any day that has 'coffee' right in its title.  I love it."

"But now that doesn't mean I think we should only do this once a year.  And I really hope you'll come by at least for Halloween and... oh... there's Adam's birthday and..."  JenniAnn's voice drifted off when the pages of the notebook began to flutter.  "The notebook!  I forgot about it.  I wonder what other talking points there could possibly be?"

Monica picked up the book and turned from the "JACK" page to the next and laughed as she read.  "Good for you, babies.  Now, I don't have all day so get yourselves out front where I'm waiting or you'll be walking home... and Colorado may neighbor Nebraska but that's a lot of hoofing it, Miss JenniAnn."

JenniAnn rolled her eyes as she smiled.  "And I didn't even know we were in Colorado.  Cool.  I've never been here.  Sad considering it does border Nebraska.  Well, I guess we better..."  She noticed that Monica had gone still and quiet. 

Monica smiled thoughtfully.  "The shooting was in Colorado.  Possibly even near to here."

JenniAnn hugged her.  "Maybe let's meet somewhere else every year."

The angel shook her head.  "No.  Here is good.  It seems appropriate really.  The rift that began here was healed here.  I want to come back."

Beaming, JenniAnn discarded the trash.  "Good.  Well, let's go so we don't have to walk."

Monica grabbed the notebook and followed her friend out of the room.  She paused for just a moment in the doorway and offered a prayer of gratitude for the healing that had taken place there.

"Monica?" JenniAnn called right before they exited the restaurant.


"Why Joshua?  I mean why did you say that for the baby's name?"

Monica's face lit up with a fond smile.  "I've always loved that name."


Joshua sighed contentedly and leaned his head back, admiring the sunlight filtering through the leaves.  They'd done it.  JenniAnn and Monica had confronted their differences and hurt feelings and misunderstandings and found their way back to the friendship they'd once shared... just in time.


The man sat up straight and smiled.  "Hi, Andrew!"

The angel of death beamed.  "I got the message to come here but I didn't think it would be you I was meeting.  Wow...  I mean... this is great but wow."

Joshua patted the other side of the bench.  "Chocolate chip bagel?  I ran into that Panera up the street and couldn't resist."

Andrew chuckled.  "Sure.  Thanks."

Joshua handed Andrew a bagel, cream cheese, and carton of milk then began to prepare his own.

"So... am I just here for snack time?  Not that I'm complaining if I am.  It's always nice to spend time with you but..."

Balancing the bagel on his knee, Joshua squeezed the angel's shoulder.  "I wanted to talk to you about an assignment I'd like you to take.  It's going to be a difficult one.  But it's one that I know you're the perfect angel for."

"Thank you.  I'll give all I've got."

"You always do."  Then Joshua began to explain about West Hollow, IA and about the rash of unsolved rapes that had left the town feeling terrorized.  He felt a mixture of pride and sadness when he saw the toll merely hearing about the case took on Andrew.  But Joshua knew the angel of death would excel.  He knew he would reach Jonah and the survivors.  And Joshua knew Andrew would not face the case alone.  For the first time, Andrew would share his assignment with a united front of Dyelanders and angels... Monica among them.  There was much more healing to come.


October 3, 2013

"So are Halloween preparations underway?" the caseworker asked before sipping her mocha.


Monica noted the mischievous look in JenniAnn's eyes.  "What?"

"It's not exactly going to be a standard Halloween party...  Well, at least not like we've been having these last several years.  Shelby and some of her little group campaigned quite heartily for trick-or-treating in Manhattan.  And Andrew..."

"Poor Andrew!"

"Yeah...  But he's agreed.  Nervously, I think.  But he... well, he knows Shel is growing up and soon... soon she may not care about Halloween at all.  But she asked him to take her trick-or-treating so at least for one more year..."

"She'll be his lil girl."

JenniAnn responded with a wistful smile.  "Yeah.  Aww, Monica, you should have seen Andrew when Shel asked him how old he thought a girl had to be before she started dating.  Poor love...  I just wanted to hug him.  He is NOT ready for that."  JenniAnn sipped her pumpkin spice latte and shook her head.  "Heck, I'm not ready for..."

Monica let out a startled gasp.

Alarmed, JenniAnn followed the angel's gaze to the front of the restaurant but she saw nothing to explain the angel's reaction or the tears that were at that moment welling in Monica's eyes.  "Monica, what's wrong?"

"Him...  It... it's him.  Don't... don't you recognize him from the... the vision?"

Frantically, JenniAnn again searched the restaurant, fearful that Satan had snuck in.  But she didn't see him.  And then, as a man turned around, she realized that wasn't the "him" Monica meant. 

JenniAnn and Monica watched as Arthur Reese approached the counter and placed his order.  He was close enough that they could hear it: mac & cheese, roast beef sandwich, and an iced tea.  He did not sense their eyes following him as he settled into a booth.  When JenniAnn at last tore her gaze away from the man, she saw that Monica was staring down at her hands which were folded on the table.  Whether she was praying or merely trying to recover from the shock, JenniAnn didn't know.  She waited for a few moments before saying anything more.  "Did... did you ever go back to speak to him?"

Monica shook her head.

"Why not?"

When the angel looked up, there were tears in her eyes.  "I decided it... it would be too difficult if I did go see him and... and he didn't remember me.  I've thought of him, you know.  Several times since... since we first spoke of him.  That was a terrible day but... but there's a certain... softness a-and peace that I feel when I think of him and I didn't want...  It's like when you were praying in the chapel.  You... you just needed to know that somewhere on Earth... Andrew was there.  Because you loved him and he loved you and even if... if you couldn't see him again... just to know that love was there...  I feel something of that, too, JenniAnn, and what if I talk to him and discover it... it was nothing?"

"Monica, he's sitting there alone."

"He could be waiting for someone...  A girlfriend or... or a wife."

"He ordered dinner, Monica.  Who orders dinner before their dinner date arrives?"

Monica considered that she had a point.

"I'm going to do a wedding ring check."  JenniAnn pushed away from the table and stood.


"What?  I'll just walk by and grab some napkins.  He won't suspect a thing."

Monica watched like a hawk as JenniAnn passed Arthur.  She tried to gauge whether the slant of her shoulders or weight of her step might mean anything but she could determine nothing.  She'd reached the condiments stand.  She had the napkins.  Now Monica could see her face and... nothing.  The woman's calm features said absolutely nothing. 

JenniAnn slumped back down into her seat... and then she grinned.  "Not a ring to be seen.  And he looks really good with those sprinkles of gray hair!"

Monica rubbed at her temples.  "I'm not hoping to date him!"

"I know but... Andrew's said that, well, you can still appreciate the aesthetics.  Like... like art.  Arthur's like art."  JenniAnn giggled but then sobered.  "Are you going to tell me that it's just a simple coincidence that on the one day a year we do this... that man walks into this restaurant?  Need I remind you, a coincidence is when..."

"God chooses to remain anonymous," Monica finished.

"Exactly."  JenniAnn patted the angel's hand.  "Monica, what if... what if he's like the guy version of me?  What if all these years he's just been waiting for that beautiful creature he saw a-and felt some pull towards to come back?  I'm glad Andrew came back.  Truly, completely, utterly glad."

"B-but what if he doesn't remember and then... then I'll..."

"Can you go get me some sweetener?  Please."

"But I..."

"This latte just needs some oomph."

"Well, all right..."

Wondering why exactly JenniAnn couldn't be bothered to get her own sweetener, Monica got up from the table and headed to the condiments bar.  She made a point not to look at Arthur.  It hurt too much.  Once she reached the sweetener, Monica grew frustrated.  Blue, yellow, pink... she had no idea what JenniAnn wanted and...


She thought her heart was going to leap out of her chest.  Slowly, she turned around and found Arthur, wide-eyed and smiling.

"It... it is you.  You... you don't look a day older than..."  Blushing, Arthur left the sentence unfinished.


"I'm sorry.  You probably don't remember me.  I'm..."

"Arthur Reese.  You work at the Goodwill.  You gave my friend some glasses over... over twelve years ago."

The man could only nod in response.  He had never expected to be remembered.  How many times had he replayed that brief encounter over in his mind?  But he'd always told himself it meant nothing to her.  But maybe...  After what seemed an agonizingly long time, he found his voice.  "I... I remember that I offered to get you dinner but you said you were already attached."

"I... umm... in a manner, yes."

Arthur noticed that a woman was staring at them with ill-concealed annoyance.  "I... I think we're blocking some folks.  Maybe... maybe we could head back to my table to talk?"

Monica followed him.  "I'd love to but I'm with..."  She glanced over at JenniAnn.  Inexplicably, Andrew was sitting with her and they were both
making the "shoo" gesture a little too enthusiastically.  She shook her head and smiled at Arthur.  "It seems I've lost my place at my table.  I'll just grab by dinner and then... then I would like to join you."

Arthur's smile shone even more brightly.  "I'd really like that."

Monica made her way back to Andrew and JenniAnn.  "How did you know to come..."

"I was just asking him that."

Andrew grinned.  "Jack told me to come keep Laja here company since she was losing her dinner companion."

"Jack..." JenniAnn and Monica echoed.

"Yep."  Andrew lifted Monica's plate and handed it to her.  "I stole a couple chips."


The angel of death set a hand on Monica's arm and smiled encouragingly.  "It will be okay, Monica.  Actually, it'll be good.  I can feel it.  Just... go."

The caseworker nodded then looked to JenniAnn.  "Your sweetener... I forgot."

JenniAnn laughed.  "You actually bought that?  Monica, trust me, it wasn't about the sweetener.  It was about being seen."

Monica shot a mock Look at the woman then smiled.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Now... go!"

Andrew and JenniAnn watched as Monica slid into the booth.

"What do you think is going to happen when he finds out who she is?" JenniAnn whispered.

"I think on some level he already knows.  Just like you did."  Andrew reached over to clasp her hand.

"So... you think Arthur's in this for the long haul?"

Andrew grinned.  "I think we're going to need to set an extra place at the Thanksgiving table... and the Christmas one.  New Year's...  Valentine's..."


"Yeah.  I do."

"Good.  I... I hope he's as happy as I've been."

"And I hope she's as happy as I've been, too."

Not wanting to be rude, Andrew and JenniAnn immersed themselves in their own conversation after he had ordered.  However, they could not entirely ignore the laughter coming from the nearby booth.

Andrew noticed when JenniAnn's eyes welled up.  "Hey there, what's wrong?" he asked as he reached over to wipe the tears away.

"N-nothing's wrong.  I... I was just thinking that... that if Monica and I hadn't made up then there would be no annual Coffee Summit and then... then there would have been no reason for either Monica or me to be here and..."

Andrew smiled.  "Jack moves in mysterious ways, huh?"

JenniAnn laughed.  "He really does.  Beautifully mysterious ways."

Unseen, Tess and Joshua sat in a booth.  The former was blinking back tears.

Joshua produced a handkerchief and handed it to the angel.  He rested an arm around her shoulders then smiled at the two angels and two humans.  "It's something else, isn't it?"

Tess nodded.  "Look at how happy my babies look... how happy all four of Your babies look!"

Joshua beamed. 

"This Arthur... he's going to do right by my Angel Girl?  It'll break her heart if he reacts badly to..."

"He won't react badly to what Monica has to tell him.  I promise.  He'll have some questions... all of which our Monica will handle perfectly.  Andrew was right about having to set another place at the table on holidays."

Tess smiled.  "Good?  And Angel Boy and his 'Laja'?"

Joshua's eyes softened as he looked at them.  "There will be some rocky days ahead... nothing they can't handle... but then great joy."

The angel peered at him.  She wanted to ask about these rocky days but he was smiling so...  Tess shook off her worry and smiled, too.  Whatever was to come, she knew Andrew and JenniAnn would face it together, with their ever expanding tribe, and triumph.  "So when do I get to meet this Arthur?"

"This coming Saturday.  Andrew and JenniAnn don't know it yet but they'll be throwing him a 'Welcome to Manhattan!' party at Adrian's Coffeehouse."

"Manhattan?  Why would he be in Manhattan?  Surely Monica won't be telling him everything by Saturday!  I mean about the portals and Dyeland and... poor baby's going to have enough to contemplate without that!"

"No.  But by dessert, he'll be telling her that tomorrow he's flying out to start his new life in Manhattan.  Nice how that worked out, isn't it?  He runs into Monica... who happens to have some pretty solid Manhattan ties... right before moving there... thinking he won't have any friends.  Strange, really.  A coincidence, you might say."  Joshua's eyes twinkled.

Tess grinned.  "You really do move in 'beautifully mysterious ways.'"

"Thank you."

The supervisor angel watched as Joshua continued to gaze at the four.  She felt a pang of sadness at seeing his expression turn wistful.  He longed to be there, milling around Adrian's, laughing and talking with the crowd of Dyelanders and their friends as they welcomed Arthur.  "Just a little over four months, isn't it?  Until the great Joshua Davidson arrives on scene, I mean?" Tess encouraged.

Joshua nodded, his smile stretching across his face.  "Four months." 

Tess squeezed his hand and they watched together as Monica glanced over at JenniAnn.  Noticing, JenniAnn lifted her latte.

"Andrew, raise your glass." 

Momentarily confused, the angel of death nonetheless picked up his drink.

"To kindred spirits, wherever and whenever one finds them." JenniAnn toasted.

Turning around to look at Monica and Arthur, Andrew smiled and touched his cup against JenniAnn's.  "To kindred spirits."

Hearing them, Monica beamed.

The End

Author's note: Well, as I wrote above, for several years I wrote Dyeland stories with the assumption being that the angels worked cases very, very similar to what happened on TBAA.  And, for the most part, I think that's still accurate.  However, "Netherlands" posed a problem.  To go with my usual method, the assumption would be that the trio and Gloria worked an assignment that involved a bombing at a building and then God inspired the TBAA writers to pen an episode covering this.  But I think there's a fairly obvious problem.  Had there really been a building bombing, TPTB would never have produced "Netherlands" so soon for fear of seeming to be insensitive and/or profiting off of a terrible tragedy.  Thus, I had to turn the bombing into a mass shooting.  So... the real Monica's desert temptation was precipitated by a mass shooting and not a building being blown up.  Further, I had to change Mike Rice's name so chose Arthur Reese.  It just seemed too twisted to me that God would inspire the TBAA writers to use an actual man's name like that.  I mean imagine if "Mike"... having recently witnessed the aftermath of a mass shooting... tuned into TBAA and saw some actor more or less replicating him and reminding him of that lost woman.  How paranoid would he feel!?  I don't think God would rub poor "Mike's" nose in his own melancholy like that.  So... "Netherlands" aired and the real Mike, which is to say Arthur, possibly saw it and was struck by it but didn't feel messed up over it.  Also, I just didn't want to have another Mike around since we already have Fr. Mike and also Mick and, who knows?, at some point I may decide to throw St. Michael into the mix since according to some he's the head AOD.

Credits: While I came up with a lot of my own dialogue in the flashbacks, the writers for "Netherlands" and "I Will Walk With You" did supply/directly inspire some of the lines.  The lines from Monica's vision of LJA's chapel breakdown were taken from "The Altar" which I put on the AC some time ago.  The lyrics to "No One is Alone" were written by the great Stephen Sondheim for the musical Into the Woods.  Finally, my version of the temptation was inspired by C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair.  In that, the Lady of the Green Kirtle gets our heroes into such a state that they no longer have clear memories of Aslan or Narnia.  It's absolutely chilling and spooky and, personally, I liked that take on satanic forces better than what we saw in "Netherlands."  While we're at it, since Joshua's JCS production was on my mind, I also had Judas' "My mind is in darkness now!" line running through my head.  That was the level of absolute distress and confusion that I feel Monica needed to be in for her behavior to make any sense.

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