of the Soul
"My mind was
called across the years
of rages and of
and all the
and all the
waste of life.
where our God was
in the face of
so much pain
and I looked up
to the stars above
to find you once
Andrew watched the flashing
lights fade away. He breathed a sigh of relief. The
"Cowboy" was caught and he'd pay for what he did to
Meg. But Meg, whose name Andrew had to learn from
the Father because she couldn't remember it, would forever be
terrorized by the memory of red boots...
Gloria and Kristie moved past
Andrew, the former giving him a quick smile before escorting the woman
to another squad car. For a moment a long forgotten feeling
welled up in Andrew's heart. Envy. Gloria had stopped the
attack. Gloria had been able to say something. To do
something. She'd saved Kristie. But Meg... Grief won
out over envy.
Andrew watched Kristie get into
the squad car with Gloria beside her. Nonetheless, her screams
echoed in his mind and mixed with Meg's whimpers. Andrew wasn't
due any where for a few hours but he knew he had to go somewhere.
He had to get away from the town. The angel looked up to the sky,
closed his eyes, and disappeared.
A moment later, Andrew stood
beneath the willow tree in his yard in Dyeland. Everything was
very still and peaceful, stars twinkled, and soft music drifted over
from the Cafe. The angel took a deep breath and tried to
Meg's pained question returned
to him, making it impossible for Andrew to concentrate let alone
"Why?" the angel of death
Andrew spun around to where the
voice had come from. "JenniAnn?"
The young woman stepped through
the branches. "Yep. I was pulling an all-nighter for a
paper and saw you out the window. That's a very nice shirt," she
said with a blush, "but not exactly warm enough to be standing around
outside in. Here." She unfolded a blanket she'd brought out
and held it out to the angel of death.
Andrew smiled and reached for
JenniAnn gasped. "You're
shaking. And I don't think it's just from the cold. What's
wrong? Did you have a bad assignment?"
Andrew looked at the ground and
fiddled with the blanket. "Thank you for bringing this out.
My last assignment was a near miss, thankfully."
"You're welcome. Here,
lemme..." JenniAnn helped wrap the blanket around Andrew's
shoulders. "I'm glad to hear that. But... you're clearly
upset. Which leads me to believe your assignment before wasn't so
happy. Do you want to talk about it?"
"JenniAnn, it's very nice of
you to come out here and to try to make me feel better but I don't want
to tell you... Terrible things happen and sometimes I struggle
with the memories of them myself and I'm *not* exposing you to
that." Andrew shook his head.
JenniAnn bowed her own head
and nervously twisted her ring around her finger before
looking up at Andrew. "I go to classes every day and I hear about
massacres in South America and read painstakingly detailed essays
about crucifixion and pass posters with statistics on domestic
violence and rape. I... I hear the stories but I can't do
anything for the people that experience them. They're either dead
or unknown or too far away. But you... you're here. And you
need someone to listen. And I'm here. Let me help
you. Please, Andrew." She briefly took one of his hands in
her own. "Please."
Andrew closed his eyes and
leaned against the trunk of the tree. He'd already talked to
Monica about it and even though they had been interrupted by concerns
for Gloria and Kristie, it was enough. He'd got what he needed to
say out. There was no reason to expose JenniAnn to the same
terrible memories and the questions they had brought to the
surface. Angels were supposed to bring humans a message of
"Fear not!" not frightening stories of human cruelty.
"Okay, then we'll just sit,"
she said, interrupting his thoughts.
Andrew watched as JenniAnn
pulled the cloak she wore more tightly around herself and sat on the
ground. So she wasn't going away. That much was
obvious. He sat down.
"Maybe you should take this
back. I don't want you to catch cold." Andrew moved to hand
her the blanket.
JenniAnn shook her head.
"No, keep it. This is basically a blanket itself. Or it
used to be before Mary fixed it up." She smiled as she ran the
satin binding of her cloak between her fingers. "My baby blanket
had this on it and I'd rub it whenever I had a nightmare and was scared
but didn't wanna wake my mom or dad up. Sometimes I'd tell
my nightmares to my stuffed animals. It always made me feel
better to get it out." She shot Andrew a pointed look.
Despite his melancholy, Andrew
laughed. "You're very persistent and creative."
The woman shrugged and
smiled. "Just think of me as an oversized Care Bear or a
"A popple?" Andrew raised
an eye brow.
"Never mind. Just...
either talk to me or promise me you will with someone else."
The pleading in her eyes was unmistakable. As was the
Andrew relaxed against the
trunk of the tree. "Okay. I was told to go to this wooded
area and when I got there I just saw a man getting into his pick-up
truck. He drove off and I didn't know if he was my
assignment. Maybe a car wreck. But there was something
about him... A coldness. After another moment I knew he
wasn't my assignment. I stood there after he drove off and
then..." Andrew sighed. "I heard... I heard whimpering and
I saw this woman." He stopped and looked to JenniAnn.
"Go on. I'm alright," she
Andrew took a deep
breath. "I went to her and, at first, she looked at me with so
much fear. Like she thought I was going to hurt her."
"Oh, Andrew..." JenniAnn
reached for his right hand which he was gazing at as if it was some
foreign, dangerous object. She squeezed it gently.
"I introduced myself.
That was when I started to glow. She didn't seem so afraid
then. I asked her what her name was and..." Andrew drew
back his hand, raked it through his hair, and stood up. "He'd
beat her so badly that she couldn't remember. Not her name, her
family, her friends. Not her own life! He stole that from
her and he beat her and all I could do was show up too late and stand
around glowing!" The angel of death began to cry, his shoulders
JenniAnn brushed back her own
tears and moved to her feet. Tentatively, she placed a hand
on Andrew's shoulder. "Andrew, you didn't just stand there
glowing. You brought her the message of God's love and some
peace in a terrifying time. You were the first friendly voice and
gentle touch she felt after... after it happened. That counts for
Andrew looked at his friend
appreciatively and drew a deep breath to steady himself. Weary,
he sat back down. JenniAnn reclaimed her place beside him.
"Thank you. I know it does. But I can't help wishing
sometimes that I could be there earlier. Maybe I could have
JenniAnn frowned. "And
somewhere else there would be another just like him. People do
some very terrible things with free will. You couldn't stop them
all even if that was your job. God knows that humans can be
horribly cruel but He won't take back His gift of free will. So
He sends you and Adam and Henry and others. What happened to...
do you know her name now?"
"Meg," the angel answered
"What happened to Meg was awful
and... and I wish it hadn't happened. But it did and maybe the
only reason she might come back from it is because she'll remember
gentleness and compassion. Yours, Andrew. And if she
doesn't... then at least some of her last memories of the world into
which she was born will have some beauty and peace to them."
JenniAnn stopped speaking and leaned heavily against the willow's trunk
herself. Looking out into the yard, she rested her head on
Andrew's shoulder. "I don't wish you were anything but what you
are, Andrew. Because sometimes when I hear all those stories in
class or on the news, the only thing that keeps me from going insane is
the thought that you or someone like you was with those people.
Praying for them, crying for them, but mostly being with them.
The subtle invocation
of the young woman's own mortality and her tears and words
affected Andrew deeply and he could think of nothing to say. They
sat silently for a few moments. Finally, Andrew spoke. "I
don't know what else to say but thank you for listening and for saying
all that you did. Your words did help me, JenniAnn. I just
hope mine didn't harm you."
JenniAnn shook her head.
"It pains me that things like that happen. And I hate it that
they weigh so heavily on you when they do. But neither of us can
avoid them entirely."
"I suppose not. You're
sure you're okay?"
"I will be. Are you okay?"
"I will be," Andrew responded
with the beginnings of a smile.
"Do you have to go?"
"Not until later. I need
to meet Monica, Gloria and Tess to finish the assignment. Let me
walk you back so you can finish your paper." Andrew stood up.
"No, I don't feel like
it. Besides, it's actually not due until tomorrow. I just
wanted to get a head start but suddenly the Romantic elements in Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein don't seem so vital. What time is
Andrew checked his pocket
"The sun rises in about an hour
and a half. Will you watch it with me? I think it'd do us
Andrew didn't miss the sparkle
of tears that lingered in JenniAnn's eyes. He knew he couldn't
leave just yet. "I'd love to watch the sunrise with you."
JenniAnn beamed at him as he
sat back down. She once again rested her head on his
shoulder. "I'm glad you talked to me about what happened. I
think I needed to listen as much as you needed to talk. I don't
feel quite so... helpless now."
"Neither do I," Andrew
agreed. "And I'm glad I talked to you. Everything you said,
it made a lot of sense and even more it reminded me why I was so happy
when I got promoted to angel of death. So thank you."
"You're welcome, Andrew.
If you ever need to talk again, I'm here. So are the others."
"I know and I'm grateful for
that," the angel smiled and glanced up to the stars then back to
JenniAnn. "So what do we do until the sun comes up?"
JenniAnn bit her lip as she
thought. "Maybe you could tell me about one of your really good
"I'd like that." The
angel looked pensive for a minute then his face lit up and he
began. "Once, almost a hundred years ago, I was sent to a
little village in Ireland..."
The two sat together, Andrew
telling his story and JenniAnn hanging on every word, until streaks of
pink, purple, blue, and orange lit the horizon. After the long,
dark night the two gratefully soaked in the colors, sounds, scents, and
reminder of God's love that came with the dawning of a new day.
After a final hug, JenniAnn
watched Andrew walk out from beneath the branches of the willow.
He gave her one last smile before disappearing. She smiled after
him, hoping that the company of his friends would sustain him on a
morning that would be filled with memories of what happened to
Meg. After whispering a prayer, she stooped to pick up the
abandoned blanket, and returned to Willowveil.