January 10th, 2021
continue to continue to pretend my life will never end...
And flowers never bend with the
Andrew closed his eyes when the song pushed forward through the
recesses of his memory.
"'The mirror on
my wall, casts an image dark and small
But I'm not sure at all it's my
I'm blinded by the light of God and
truth and right
And I wander in the night without
Well, he wasn't entirely without direction. His direction
was very simple: protect Laja, protect the kids.
It's just that the "job" was getting more difficult by the day...
January 6th, 2021
Andrew sighed happily as he put the finishing touches on a set of
cupboard doors one of his repeat clients had ordered. He was
quite proud of them. The man's wife was blind and so,
together, the men had planned to engrave Braille into the wood but
in such a way that it looked stylish. And, if Andrew said so
himself, it most certainly did. He only wished he could see
the woman's face when they were presented to her. But he was
sure Joshua would tell him all about it later.
Andrew was just lifting the brush to apply a final layer of stain
when his workshop door flew open and Violeta rushed in.
"You need to come inside!" she bellowed.
Seeing the tears in his protege's eyes, Andrew stared at her in
Violeta shook her head.
"No. She's fine. It's just... the news. The U.S.
Capitol has been stormed."
"What!?" Andrew exclaimed.
"Just come inside! Everyone is freaking out!"
Andrew dropped his paintbrush and hastened after Violeta.
Upon entering the castle, he immediately heard Evie screaming...
along with Max.
Andrew and Violeta exchanged pained looks then ran to the living
"I did not get tortured over in Afghanistan so those goons could
do this! I didn't see them over there! No... no.
That would be too much for their little snowflake asses!"
"Max..." Rose hugged her husband tightly.
"Sweetheart... the kids."
Max looked down at Belle, Avi, and Evie then burst into tears.
Evie resumed screaming only to be swooped up by Marty.
As the scribe moved to exit the room, Andrew grabbed his arm.
"What do you know?" he inquired.
"The president had a rally. Got them worked up.
They've stormed the capitol in an attempt to delay the electoral
"And... and the senators? House members?"
"Fine. For now. Traumatized. But safe."
Evie shrieked again.
Marty kissed her hair then looked to Andrew.
"I need to get her away... I'll come back when her mum's
returned from her walk."
"Of course." Andrew clapped Marty on the back and let him
JenniAnn, who had seated herself to Max's left after Rose had
steered him to a couch, looked up at Andrew.
"I... I... This... it's insane," she stammered.
Avi, teary-eyed, scrambled onto his mother's lap. JenniAnn
snuggled him with one arm while stroking Max's back with the
"Daddy... what's happenin'?" Belle implored, her eyes wide and
Andrew scooped her up and kissed her cheek.
"I'm not quite sure yet, little elf. But it's happening far
away. We're safe," he assured.
"Are Appa and Amma safe?"
"Appa and Amma are safe."
"Are Behnam and Isra and Aiyla and Omar and Aurora safe?"
Andrew winced. What must they be thinking right now...
"Yes, sweetie. They're safe, too."
Joccy and Takoda hurried into the room with Ivy and Sy trailing
"Marty just said..." Joccy glanced at the TV and gasped.
"How are they doing that? Why are they letting them do
that?" Ivy demanded. "Where's the tear gas? Where are
the rubber bullets?"
"Guess they used them all up in the summer," Sy scoffed,
bitter tears in his eyes.
Takoda sighed and shook his head then whispered to Joccy who
"Belle, Avi... how would you like to go play Hide-and-Seek with
Takoda and me? We were just about to start a game," she
Belle's face lit up and Andrew set her down.
"I want to play!"
Avi grinned and nodded.
"All right then!" Joccy turned to Shelby who was hugging
Violeta. "Shel, would you like to play or..."
Shelby bit her lip for a moment then shook her head.
"I'll stay here. Thank you, though. Have fun!" she
chirped with a forced smile.
Once the little ones were escorted out, Max looked up at Andrew
and shook his head.
"What... what's going to happen?" he bleated. "They're not
going to just disappear on the 20th."
Andrew dragged a hand through his hair.
"I... I don't know. But I do know that America has... has
come through a lot in the past. Civil War.
Assassinations. World Wars. Other pandemics. The
Great Depression. It... it'll come through this, too,"
Andrew insisted, wishing his voice wouldn't quake so much.
Shelby and Violeta had moved to another couch.
"Sit with us?" the former requested.
The angel of death took a seat between the two girls.
Briefly, he exchanged looks with JenniAnn. Hers was
concerned... Andrew could only hope that his was reassuring.
Then they sat, together, and watched the chaos unfold.
January 10th, 2021
They'd attempted some semblance of normalcy in the days
that followed. On the 8th, Andrew and JenniAnn had
restricted news viewing to one hour in the morning and another in
the evening. But, of course, that didn't stop anyone from
repeatedly checking the news on their phones... including both of
them. They'd answered countless questions from the kids...
mostly from Belle.
"Did anyone get hurt?"
"Is anyone else gonna get hurt?"
"Is it going to happen again?"
"Why were those people so angry?"
"Is the new president safe?"
"Could those people get into Dyeland?"
And Andrew and JenniAnn had done their best to allay their
youngest daughter's fears.
"People were killed, unfortunately. And that's very, very
"We're not sure but we really, really hope not and should pray
"We hope not. But maybe. We need to pray about that,
"People get angry for all sorts of reasons. Those people
were angry because the election didn't go their way. There
were deeper reasons. But none gave them any excuse."
"There's a group of very trained, very professional people devoted
to keeping the president-elect safe. And we'll pray for him
and his team."
"No... No, they could never, ever get into Dyeland."
The questions from Max, Violeta, and Shelby were much more
difficult to answer. And, in fact, they had no answers.
"What do we do with people who are past the point of reason?
How do you get people back when they've fallen so far down a
conspiracy-laden rabbit hole?"
"What if they assassinate Biden? I'm really, really
"Why were there tanks and tear gas and violence when Black Lives
Matter people were protesting and these people got opened doors
Andrew and JenniAnn... all of them, really... knew the answer to
that last one. But it offered no comfort.
Since the 6th, God had ceased sending Andrew on assignments.
He'd made it clear he was needed at home.
So that's how Andrew found himself awake at 3 A.M., seated at the
piano in the ballroom and playing Simon and Garfunkel on a
loop. He looked disheveled in his robe, sporting four day's
worth of stubble.
"'No matter if
you're born to play the king or pawn
for the line is thinly drawn 'tween
joy and sorrow.
So my fantasy becomes reality
and I must be what I must be and
Tears streamed down Andrew's cheeks as he played.
continue to continue to pretend my life will never end...
There was so much out there that could
And flowers never bend with the
But before Andrew could think another torturous thought, he became
aware that he was no longer alone.
JenniAnn sat beside him and hugged his waist as he continued to
When the song finished, Andrew peered over at his anam cara who
stroked his face as tears began to trail down his cheeks.
Andrew let out a shuddering sigh then buried his face in
"My love... It's okay, my love," she cooed as she kissed his
hair and ran her fingers up and down his back.
"Every... every time I... I think there's progress...
Something happens!" Andrew cried. "Abraham was shot...
Martin was shot... Billie... they tormented her... just for
singing the truth... until she couldn't take it! George,
Breonna, Ahmaud... so many, many others. And then there are
Confederate flags in the Capitol building... A noose!
A damn 'Camp Auschwitz' shirt!"
"I know... I know..." JenniAnn pressed her lips to
Andrew's forehead. "And I can't imagine how difficult this
is for you when... when you watched America be born... watched it
"It's your country..." Andrew wiped at his eyes. "I...
I should be comforting you."
"And you have. But... it's been your world for a whole lot
longer than it's been mine. This isn't just about one
country." JenniAnn bowed and shook her head. "It's
bound to dredge up other memories of similar or even just
tangentially related events for you."
"For four straight days, all you've done is comfort and reassure
me and the kids. Max especially. You... Andrew... you
couldn't keep doing that without breaking at some point.
I... I'm just glad I was here when it happened."
Andrew embraced JenniAnn and nuzzled her hair.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"I woke up and you weren't there. Then, very softly, I heard
the piano. And... I knew that wasn't a song you play when
"Do you think the kids heard?"
"Maybe. But they probably just went back to sleep. I
mean... without the context, it's very soothing."
"I hope so." Andrew played a few notes then halted.
"Sometimes... sometimes I pretend that... that flowers really
don't bend in the rainfall. That this life will never
JenniAnn's breath caught when Andrew brought one of her hands to
"And I guess something like what happened on Wednesday... I
mean the Capitol hasn't been breached since 1814. To have
that happen..." Andrew dragged a hand through his hair and
shrugged. "Just makes me think of how fragile life
is." He laughed bitterly. "I know... I'm an
angel of death. The fragility of life is literally my job."
JenniAnn cupped his chin and peered into his eyes.
"Yes... But you're probably like an oncologist.
Statistically, they know that members of their family will get
sick with and maybe even die of cancer. But they kinda have
to put up a mental block or else it would consume them and suck
all the joy out of life. Still... I imagine that, even
for them, certain events make that block a little...
crumbly. And here's the thing... Flowers do bend in
the rainfall. But... lots of times, they bounce back."
Andrew smiled and nodded.
"We'll be okay," JenniAnn
insisted. "We may be in for a really rocky few days and...
and there could be some scary ripples for a good time to
come. But America will survive. We'll survive.
We did our part. Max, Rose, Ivy, Sy, my parents, and I
voted. You kindly ensured our ballots got into the
boxes. We did what we could. And... I think you're
gonna be watching America grow for a long, long time to come."
Andrew nodded even as fresh tears welled in his eyes.
JenniAnn wrapped her arms around him.
"And I'll be there, too, sometimes. I'm sure of that.
Joshua likes me an awful lot. I really think he'll let me
stalk you. I mean... I'll probably at least have to
pop up sometimes to lay claim to my man. Keep others from
"What? You're quite the catch."
"Laja...I love you," Andrew murmured.
The levity went out of JenniAnn's eyes and her gaze softened.
"I love you, too, Andrew. Now... Maybe you could play
Andrew considered and nodded.
JenniAnn smiled and rested her head on Andrew's shoulder as he
started up with the first few notes of "For Emily, Whenever I May
Softly, Andrew serenaded his Laja until the sun rose, bringing
hope for a new day.
"'And when you ran
Your cheeks flushed with the night.
We walked on frosted fields
of juniper and lamplight.
I held your hand.
And when I awoke and felt you warm
I kissed your honey hair with my
Oh, I love you, girl.
Oh, I love you...'"
"Flowers Never Bend" by Simon and Garfunkel
"For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" by Simon and Garfunkel
to the Story Index