May the Road Rise to Meet You

March 2nd

Outside, Veritas was cold and pouring rain, but in Monica's cottage a roaring fire made the living room cozy. Monica sat on the couch, and Kemara  curled up in an easy chair by the window. A pot of tea was set out on the coffee table between them with a plate of sugar cookies.

"Man, it's really coming down out there!" Kemara said, taking another cookie and dunking it in her cup. "I can't believe March is here already, but I wish spring would show up soon."

Monica nodded absently, still caught up in memories of the night before. She was used to Joshua's occasional appearances in human form; but watching him with Arthur and her other friends was amazing.

"Are you OK?" Kemara asked. "You look a little pale."

The angel shook her head. "Sorry. The rain's just making me a wee bit sleepy. And we were out so late last night."

"I know! That's why I'm glad you suggested we have tea. JenniAnn was guzzling coffee all morning. More so than usual even for her." She wrinkled her nose. "I like one cup, but that's enough."

"Ah, you've just never had the right kind of coffee," Monica teased. "I'll have Arthur make you a latte, and then you'll understand."

They both laughed.

"So....did you get a chance to speak to Joshua last night or during lunch?" Monica asked casually.

Kemara suddenly became very interested in the rose pattern on her cup. "Andrew introduced us last night, and we all talked about the show this afternoon. He seems really nice. He's pretty...charismatic...isn't he?"

"Yes, he is." Monica studied her young friend closely, noting the blush creeping into her cheeks.

"He knew I'm a dancer - Andrew's really clued him in on all of us. He said he was looking forward to seeing the posters. That reminds me....I need to bring Andrew some proofs tomorrow. I had this one idea..."

"Kemara." Monica's gentle tone broke into the woman's rambling. "I know you think you have to lock your heart away so you won't get hurt again. But when you do that, you shut out all the love and all the gifts that God wants to give you."

"I know." She shrugged. "I guess I've just gotten a little paranoid. I...I had a friend - much older than me - who thought I wanted to be more than just friends. I have no clue how to flirt, but I guess he thought that's what I was doing." She grimaced. "There's a guy in my dance class - Sean. I really like him, but I'm afraid to say anything."

Monica smiled. "I understand. Really, I do." She sighed. "When I saw Arthur again after all those years. It took all the courage I had to speak to him. And because I did, wonderful things happened."

"Well, Arthur's pretty great." Kemara said. "But not everyone is. And I'm not just talking about guys either." She shook her head, disgusted. "I thought I'd gotten over this when we were helping Ivy. I mean, look at JenniAnn - Bennie's treated her awful time and time again. But she keeps trying to mend things between them."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. And no, maybe everyone isn't great. But that doesn't mean you stop loving and stop letting yourself be loved," Monica pointed out. "Talk to Joshua when you have the chance - really talk. I think he might surprise you."

Kemara sniffled and wiped her eyes on her napkin. "That's what Violeta said. I'll try."

"Good." Monica sat back. "Now, last night you said you had an idea for a get-together?"

"Yeah," Kemara set down her cup. "I'd like to have a St. Patrick's Day ceili for the cast and crew. I thought maybe the 15th. That's a Saturday. I know two weeks isn't much time, but we have been really busy."

"I think that's a wonderful idea! How can I help?"

"I haven't worked out all the details yet...." Kemara got up to rummage through her purse and returned with a notepad and pen. "So let's brainstorm."

"Alright. First, where would we have it?" Monica said.

"I'm sure Fr. Mike would let us use the fellowship hall and the kitchen. We could probably do it for free, but I'd feel better paying a little something." Kemara jotted a note to call the church.

"Umm....What about food?"

Monica thought for a minute. "Well, scones are traditional and easy. And tea, of course."

"And beer. And maybe Irish coffee...." She caught sight of Monica's expression. "Oh, maybe not that. Sorry, I forgot."

"It's OK," Monica said with a grimace. "I just don't think I can drink that again."

"I don't blame you! What about corned beef and cabbage? I know it's not really traditional, but you can put it in a crock pot. We'd need more than one, though."

"I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem." Monica said. "We could do all the cooking at the church to make it easier."

More scribbling in the note pad. "I'll ask some of the folks at my dance class about desserts. I might make some shortbread. And speaking of dancing....What if we had the tunnel kids come in and do a little drama or a skit? Just to show off what they've been learning?"

One of the first things Kemara had done when she moved to New York was to look for an Irish dancing school that was as supportive of adult students as her old one had been. She found the Inishfree School, and took classes at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan several times a week.

After a few months, she'd approached Vincent and Father about giving lessons to the tunnel children. With their support, soon almost every child between the ages of 5 and 13 was learning reels and jigs.

"But would Jacob let them come?" Monica asked. "If anyone started asking questions..."

It always surprised Kemara to hear the patriarch of the tunnel community called by his given name.

"Huh." She chewed the end of her pen for a minute, thinking. "Well, if they just show up, do the dance and leave then he might be OK with that. And I could just say that they're some local kids I've been teaching which is totally true."

She leaned forward excitedly. "And I thought of something else too...."

A half hour later, Kemara glanced at her watch and jumped up. "I've gotta go! Rehearsal starts at five, and I wanted to go back through the Tunnels so I can talk to Father about our plans."

Monica stood up too and pulled the woman into a hug. "Have fun! And don't worry."

"Try not to get worried. Try not to hold onto problems that upset you," Kemara sang, laughing. "I'll do my best."

March 8th

The next week flew by so quickly Kemara felt as if she had forgotten to breathe.

Fr. Mike had enthusiastically agreed to let them use the hall and refused to take any payment.  So she had dropped an extra check into the collection plate with a note asking that it be used for Sunday school materials.

"Do we want to hire a ceili band?" Monica asked.

Kemara shook her head.  "I don't think we can this close to St. Pat's.  All the groups will have been booked solid for a month.  Sean's dad has a really good sound system, and I'll just burn everything to a CD."

She looked down at her list.  "OK.  We've got the hall, music, food... various people have offered to make or bring something, so I think we're OK there."

"Have you talked to -" Monica gestured vaguely. "yet?"

Kemara glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to overhear.  "Yeah, I stopped by a couple of days ago.  He said he would."

"I hope it doesn't cause any problems."

"If it does, he'll deal with them."  Kemara assured her.  She took a stack of cards out of her bag and handed them to the angel.  "I got the invitations done, so we can hand them out tonight."

"Very nice! I like the wee birds," Monica laughed.  "Do they have names?"

"I was thinking JenniAnn and Andrew would be appropriate," Kemara said, teasing.  "Or maybe you and Arthur."

Monica studied the invitation again, pursing her lips in concentration.  "No, actually I think it looks more like Max and Rose."

Max, who was sitting a few seats away, caught his name turned to look at them.

Monica gave him a bright smile and a wave as Kemara said, loud enough for him to hear, "You know...I think you're right.  Definitely Max and Rose."

March 14th

At rehearsal, Andrew had them working on the scene where Jesus is mobbed by the poor.  The crowd whirled around Joshua, to the right and then the left, faster and faster.  Suddenly, Kemara's head felt light and there was a roaring in her ears.

"Oh gosh...I can't faint...I can't!"

She woke looking into a pair of brown eyes as dark as her own.  For a minute she was afraid, confused.  Then peace settled over her like a blanket.  She wanted nothing more than to stare into those eyes which saw and accepted all that she was.

The owner of the eyes - was it Joshua? - drew back, and a babble of voices overwhelmed her.

"Give her some air."

"Did she hit her head?"

"No, Owen and Diana grabbed her in time."

"Should we call 911?"

"That was so scary!"

Then Andrew was beside her.  He put an arm around her back and helped her sit up. "You OK?"

"Yeah, I just got a little light headed."

He frowned. "You passed out.  That's more than a little light headed, I think.  Go sit down for a while."

She almost protested, but thought better of it.  "Thanks. I guess I'd better."

He pulled her to her feet.  "Everybody take a five minute break."  With Andrew on one side and Owen on the other, they guided Kemara down the stairs and into a seat.

The angel crouched in front of her looking more stern than she'd ever seen him.  "Have you eaten at all today?"

"I had breakfast...." she mumbled not meeting his eyes.

"And you came straight here after dance class?"

"Yeah," she sighed.  "I'm sorry, Andrew.  I've been so busy I just forgot to grab something for lunch."

"Here - I brought a bunch of granola bars."  Kylie dropped two maple and brown sugar pouches into her lap.

"And I have an extra Gatorade."  Zeke passed her an orange bottle

Kemara flushed as the others crowded around.  "I'm OK!  My blood sugar just bottomed out, I think."  She opened the Gatorade and took a long drink.  "I didn't realize how thirsty I was."

Andrew gave her a hug.  "You stay put.  Zeke and I can run through 'Heaven on Their Minds' a few times.  Let everybody have a breather."

"OK.  Thanks, Andrew."

Joshua had been listening.  "Actually, why don't Kemara and I go pick up dinner?  You did say this would be one of our later nights."

"That's a great idea!"  Andrew saw a look of unease flit across Kemara's face but she hid it quickly.  Even though she'd been working with Joshua for the past two weeks, Andrew knew she still a little wary.  He had seen how Joshua watched her, longing to soothe all her fears.

"Zeke, Emma - I thought we could do 'Heaven' a couple of times," Andrew said turning to them.  "I wanted to work on that one verse....."

The others wandered off or settled into seats around the auditorium.  Kemara sipped her Gatorade, keenly aware of Joshua sitting beside her.  He'd been friendly with the entire cast and crew, but despite Monica's suggestion, she still hadn't really talked to him.

"Finish eating, and I'll call in our order," he said, pulling a red cell phone from his pocket.  He looked up at the stage where Andrew and Zeke were discussing the opening number.  "Maybe I'd better go outside.  Come find me when you're done?"

Kemara nodded.  "Sure thing."  She opened the granola bars while Andrew hunted for the correct place in the soundtrack.

Five minutes later she zipped up her jacket and found Joshua in the alley that ran alongside the theater.  He was talking to a large, black-haired man in jeans and a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show his muscular arms.

"Kemara!" Joshua beckoned.  "There's someone I want you to meet!"

She made her way over to them, walking carefully around piles of slush from the recent snowfall.

"Kemara is this is John, my cousin."

"Older cousin," John said promptly.  He put out a huge hand and shook hers with surprising gentleness.

Joshua rolled his eyes.  "Alright.  Older cousin.  You're never going to let me forget that are you?"

"Nope."  John grinned, totally unrepentant.  "Six months is six months!"

"Well, at least try to behave yourself.  This is Kemara.  She's in the chorus and doing the all the posters and playbills for us."

John raised his eyebrows.  "Oh really?  I've seen the flyers.  They're very eye catching.  And I've heard people talking.  They'd forgotten this place was here."  He gestured at the theater.  "But now they want to see the show."

She flushed.  "Thanks, but I didn't draw them or anything.  Just threw a few graphics together."

"Hey, that's nothing to scoff at," John said.  He turned to Joshua.

"Where are you sneaking off to?  Trying to get out of work, as usual!"

Joshua grinned.  "Not this time.  We're going to pick up food of everyone.  I called in an order to Moishe's.  Want to come along?"

"Nah," John shook his head.  "Got a lead on a couple of jobs for you.  I told them I'd stop by before 7."

"Oh, before you go...."  Joshua held out the cell phone.  "You can have this back.  Thanks for letting me borrow it."

John took it looking relieved.  "No problem.  I've missed it all day.  Such a convenient little thing...."  He shoved the phone in a pocket.  "Well, I'm off.  It was nice meeting you, Kemara."  With a wave he headed down the alley towards the parking lot.

Joshua turned to her.  "Why don't we walk since it's still light?  Actually," he admitted with a wry smile, "We could take my car, but I'd have to clean it out first.  I think I counted three hammers down in the floorboard the other day."

He led the way out of the alley and turned left once they were on the sidewalk.

Kemara laughed.  "Sounds like my dad's truck!  He used to custom-build furniture, and now he does flooring and stair parts.  So I'm used to wood glue, boxes of nails - stuff like that in all our vehicles."

They walked in silence for a few minutes.  Kemara was surprised at how comfortable she felt with Joshua - like he was an old friend she'd met again after a long separation.

"So how do you like living up here?"

She thought for a minute, and realized no one had asked before.  "Well, it''s different that's for sure.  I like being able to get around pretty much anywhere on the subway.  But sometimes I miss the trees!"

"You can always visit Central Park." They dodged around two street preachers and a woman with a Mohawk who was walking a baby tiger on a leash.

"I did once....and it was nice, just not the same."  She shrugged.  "I guess I'll always be a Georgia girl at heart.  What's that song...'If Heaven Ain't a Lot Like Dixie'?  And where am I now?  New York City."

Joshua burst out laughing.  It was such a happy sound that several people turned around to stare, but he seemed not to notice.  "Well, maybe there's a bit of New York in Heaven, too."

Moishe's Kosher Deli was so shabby and nondescript that Kemara almost walked right past it before Joshua stopped her.

"Here we are.  It doesn't look like much, but the food's great."

He held open the door, letting out a waft of warm air strong with the smells of pickles, fresh baked bread and coffee.

The inside of the restaurant was just as rundown as the outside.  A long, Formica counter lined with stools ran along the right side.  Several booths took up of most of left half leaving a narrow aisle between them.  The menu on the wall was faded and the vinyl of the booths had duct tape where rips had been repaired.

"Shalom!" Joshua called.  The door closed behind them, making the bell above it jangle loudly.

"Joshua! Shalom!"  An elderly man in a stained apron bustled out from the kitchen wiping his hands on a towel.  His nearly bald head and very wrinkled neck gave him an amazing resemblance to a turtle.

He met them at the counter looking cross.  "What is this?  Shortly before I am to close for the Sabbath, you call me and want food for twenty-five people!"  He threw up his hands.  "Twenty-five!"

Joshua grinned.  "So you're saying it's not ready yet, Moishe?"

"You are very lucky that an engagement party was cancelled, just the minute before you called."  He snorted.  "I'm giving you what they would've had.  My grandsons are packing it up now."  He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the kitchen.

"I wanted to talk to you anyway, Joshua."  He took a piece of paper from under the cash register and shoved it at them.  Kemara recognized it as one of the JCS posters.  "These are all over town."

Joshua hoisted himself up on a stool and gestured for Kemara to do the same.  "And?"

"And?" Moishe's eyes grew even rounder.  "I can understand helping the theater.  Nice little place - Betty and I used to go there all the time - ten, fifteen years ago."  He waved a hand dismissively.  "But something like this....Jesus's not right for a good Jew to be part of."  He slammed a fist down on the poster.

Kemara nearly laughed but managed to turn it into a cough.  Moishe glared at her.

"Rabbi Yakov and his wife are advising us," Joshua told the old man calmly.  "I don't think they will steer us wrong.  You should come."  He ignored Moishe's sputtering.  "You're right.  The theater is a nice place, and it would be a shame to see it close for good."

Moishe frowned.  "Yakov, you say?  Well....I won't promise anything.  If I do come it will be for the theater... and you.  Not for this."  He balled up the poster and tossed it in trash.

Three little boys ran in from the kitchen each carrying two plastic shopping bags.  "Here is your food!  Are you sure the two of you can manage?  She looks like a strong breeze would blow her away."

They slid down from their stools and Joshua took out his wallet.  "Oh, I think we'll be fine.  It's not far, and Kemara's stronger than she looks."

They said goodbye to Moishe, and dividing up the bags, headed back to the theater.

"Do you think he'll come?" Kemara asked.  "He did seem really upset."

Joshua shrugged.  "Moishe's a good man even if he does act like a snapping turtle sometimes.  I pray he does come, but I learned a long time ago that you can't push people.  You can only tell them the truth and let them make up their own minds."

When they returned to St. Genesius, they found JenniAnn and Annabelle had joined the group in the auditorium.

"We're just visiting for a lil while," JenniAnn said helping them unpack the bags of sandwiches and chips while Andrew visited with Belle.  "We stopped by to see her grandparents and since we were already in the area...."

She edged over to Kemara and lowered her voice so the others wouldn't hear.  "The kids were pretty wild.  Extra excited about something.  That wouldn't have anything to do with tomorrow would it?"

Kemara concentrated on pouring out cups of soda and didn't look at her.  "Don't know what you're talking about."

"You're a bad liar," JenniAnn teased.  "OK.  I won't pry any more."

"Thanks.  I wouldn't want to give anything away," Kemara smiled.

When JenniAnn decided to head out, Kemara offered to pack up Belle’s things while mother and baby made their good byes.

"You've got the parade in the morning, right?" Violeta asked as they gathered up the baby's things.

"Yeah, it starts at 11, but lineup is at 9 or something like that.  And you've got to get everyone together, make sure they look OK."  Kemara wrinkled her nose. "All that stuff.  That's why I'm going to bed early."

Violeta smiled. "Well, some of us will be there, I'm not sure who, but we'll yell when you go by."

"Thanks!  That would be great.  They tell me the whole parade lasts about two and a half hours, but I think Inishfree is pretty close to the front.  So you won't have to stand out in the cold unless you want to."

"We'll bundle up!  I have a really cool scarf Adam made me that I've been wanting to wear."

Kemara's jaw dropped.  "Woah, woah....  Back up the truck!  Adam can knit?"

Violeta giggled.  "Yeah an elderly - patient - he was visiting in hospice care taught him.  She said if they were just going to sit around and wait for her to die they  might as well stay busy."

"Oh, that's too funny!  Well, not to be mean, but either Adam learns fast or she must've taken a long time to die."

"You know, I asked him about that," Violeta mused.  "He said teaching him gave her a second wind or something, and she hung on about a week longer than anyone expected."

March 15th

The weather the next day, while clear, was very cold, and Kemara was grateful to be wearing a green Inishfree sweatshirt and jeans instead of the green and gold embroidered school dress. Since floats were not allowed, everyone walked - or danced - the entire 1.5 mile route.

"At least it isn't snowing like it did last year," said one of the teens as they drew close to the reviewing stands.

Her friend nodded. "Yeah. This is just cold. That was wet and cold!"

While she enjoyed participating, Kemara had just as much fun watching the spectators who wore all manner of "Irish" apparel including shamrock headbands, face paint, red wigs. Two gentlemen had even colored their beards green, white and orange.

The highlight was spotting, just past St. Patrick's Cathedral, a sizable Dyeland/JCS contingent who cheered loudly as Inishfree passed. Violeta - once again demonstrating her fondness for flags - had an Irish one which she waved enthusiastically from under a green and white striped cap. The "cool scarf" turned out to be a knitted snake - green, of course - with orange button eyes.

Rose and Max had generously offered to skip the parade in favor of getting the fellowship hall set up at St. Mary Magdalene's. Monica and Arthur would head over later with the rest of the food.

Kemara caught a glimpse of the pair with Peter, Emma and Kylie, and behind them....was that Joshua and his cousin, John? But though she strained to see, they were soon left behind.

"Friends of yours?" asked Sean beside her as they came in view of Central Park.

She grinned. "Yeah, the ones we've got the party for at the church tonight."

"Oh, speaking of, Dad said to tell you he'll be glad to call a couple of ceili dances since he's bringing the sound equipment anyway."

"Awesome! Keith rocks...Just don't tell him I said that," she added quickly.

Sean laughed. "Nah, wouldn't want him to get a swelled head or anything."

At the end of the parade route, they picked up their bags and caught the subway for the first of a half dozen performances in what promised to be a very long day.

That night,  Kemara stood in the doorway that led from the classrooms into the fellowship hall watching as people arrived. The Inishfree dancers had shown up an hour ago to find tables and chairs set up at one end of the room. Two longer tables on one side held all the food and drinks. She was glad Max and Rose hadn't overdone it with the decorations. Each table had a simple green cloth and a small golden pot of real shamrocks in the center.

She looked over her shoulder at the four children and seven adults who waited in the hallway.

"Everybody ready?"

They nodded and she signaled to Keith, who was standing across the hall next to the stereo. The opening notes of "Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys blasted over the speakers, and the crowd quickly found their seats.

Watch "Shipping Up to Boston"

The dance came to a thunderous conclusion, followed by cheers and clapping from the audience. As the others bowed, Kemara walked over to a microphone that had been set up to one side.

"Céad mile failté! A hundred thousand welcomes! It's great to see everybody. First, I want to thank to our younger dancers for helping us out tonight. They really need to get to another show right now, so let's give them a big round of applause."

The four children bowed and skipped out again to more clapping.

"I want to thank Fr. Mike for letting us use the kitchen and the hall. And I'd especially like to thank my classmates....." She gestured to where they sat off to one side, "for turning down a lucrative night of pub dancing to entertain us instead."

"Especially since they were paying us in free beer!" Sean called back, only half joking.

Kemara looked surprised. "But I thought you gave up drinking for Lent, Sean."

"Oh. Yeah, I did." He had the good grace to join in the laughter.

"Well, we have plenty of food and drink," Kemara assured them. "But you'll have to work up an appetite for it first. Everybody stand up and gather in the middle here. Come on!"

With some good-natured protesting, they complied. In a few minutes, the Inishfree dancers had them divided into lines, men on one side, women on the other.

"I'm going to turn this over to Keith and jump in myself." Kemara said handing the microphone to an older man in jeans and a Guinness sweatshirt. She squeezed herself into line ending up across from Peter and next to Rose.

"Hey folks!" Keith called. "My name is Keith, and I've been teaching ceili dancing at the Irish Arts Center for about 10 years now. If you've never heard of ceili dancing, don't worry, It's very easy to learn. But I need you to do one thing for me first. Everybody hold up your right hand."

Hands rose uncertainly...except for Owen who jokingly raised his left.

"Your other right, young man!" Keith said pointing. "OK. Now we're sure you all know your right from your left - except for him. This dance we're gonna do is the Waves of Tory, and you'll find out why it's called that in just a minute."

He taught them to advance and retire, turn and promenade. And then the "wave" ducking under raised arms, turning and ducking again.

After a few walk-throughs, they tried it at full speed with the music - resulting in gales of laughter as people quickly forgot their right from their left, or got the "waves" tangled up.

Watch The Waves of Tory

When they stood in their rows once more, panting and disheveled, Keith congratulated them.

"That was great! I'll tell you, it helps that you're all adults. Doing that one with little kids as part of the mix can be....interesting." He shuddered dramatically, and everyone laughed. "OK. I'll let you take a break for some of that food and drink Kemara mentioned. But I'm gonna get you back out here again before the night's over, so don't try to hide."

Chattering, the crowd hurried to fill their plates with corned beef and cabbage, brown bread, scones, trifle, shamrock shakes and fruit with a Bailey's dip.

Kemara found herself at a table with Monica, Emma and Rose. She barely had time to set down her plate before Violeta came up and gave her a huge hug.

"That was SO much fun!" she squealed. "I could do that all night."

Kemara grinned back. She wasn't surprised this form of dancing appealed to the young angel who always had energy to spare. "There's a ceili at Irish Arts every Wednesday night. You could come when you're not busy."

"I might do that!" Violeta waved at someone behind Kemara. "Oh! There's Jenni Ann and Andrew with Annabelle." She dashed off.

The sound of a fork tapping against a glass made everyone stop talking. "Fr. Mike, if you would be kind enough to bless the food for us?" Monica asked. Everyone rose respectfully.

The priest shook his head. "Actually, I think I'll let Joshua have the honor if he doesn't mind."

"Of course not." Joshua reached out and took Zeke's hand. Around the room, the others did the same until all were connected. "Loving God, bless all those gathered here today as we come together in friendship and fellowship. Thank you for food in a world where many know only hunger; For our faith in a world where many know fear; For friends in a world where many know only loneliness. For all of this we give you thanks. Amen."

"Amen," they echoed.

JenniAnn made her way over to their table balancing a plate in one hand, a cup in the other and trying to keep the diaper bag on her shoulder. Rose jumped up and grabbed the cup before it could spill.

"Thanks," JenniAnn said. "I still haven't gotten used to hauling this thing around." She set down the bag with a sigh.

Rose looked around. "Speaking of....where is Annabelle? And where have all the guys run off to?"

JenniAnn gestured back over her shoulder with a grin. "There's the answer to both questions."

Looking where she pointed, the others saw Andrew, Joshua, Arthur and Max at a table across the room. Joshua held Annabelle, and group was surrounded by JCS cast members and even a few Inishfree dancers.

"Four men and a baby....Oh that's too sweet!" Kemara said reaching for the Nikon which she had asked Rose to bring for her. "I've gotta get a photo."

She hurried over and took several photos from various angles. Joshua insisted on keeping Annabelle with him, so Andrew, Arthur and Max joined the others.

"Are you sure he doesn't mind?" JenniAnn kept glancing back to where Joshua and Fr. Mike were deep in conversation while Joshua rocked the now-sleeping baby in his arms.

"He offered to, Laja," Andrew reassured her. "He'll bring her back if she gets fussy."

Rose chuckled. "JenniAnn, I'd take advantage of people offering to babysit if I were you."

JenniAnn smiled. "I know, but it's just so new, ya know? I hate to let her out of my sight." She blinked back the tears that had been breaking out unexpectedly for the past month.

"Just wait until she hits the 'terrible twos'," Monica teased. "You'll be glad to hand her over to someone else!"

"I don't doubt it, but -" JenniAnn broke off and winced. "Uh oh. Violeta's got Keith cornered."

Kemara craned her neck to look. "Yeah, I think Keith's just found his most enthusiastic student."

Rose took a bite of her corned beef. "This is really good! Who made it?"

Arthur grinned. "Fr. Mike; would you believe it? He put it on last night, and he said he's been up since dawn making sure it would be perfect."

"I hope we can get him to perform for us later," Kemara said. "JenniAnn told me he can sing and play a couple of instruments."

JenniAnn shrugged. "I think he plays the bodhran or the tin whistle."

"And Joshua has his guitar," Monica pointed out.

Emma sighed. "I always wanted to be able to play something. I took all kinds of lessons as a kid - piano, violin, flute - but other than singing, nothing stuck."

"It's a lovely talent," Monica said a bit wistfully.

"You don't sing, then?"

The angel blushed. "Uh, no." She looked down at her plate, clearly wanting Emma to drop the subject.

Arthur patted her hand. "Hey, you don't sound bad to me. I bet if you just had a few lessons...."

She smiled at him. "Thank you. I don't think -"

Kemara saw Keith making his way over and interrupted,  "Speaking of performing, Monica...."

Arthur looked up, surprised. "What's going on?"

"Oh, just a wee bit of storytelling." Monica said and took the microphone Keith brought her.

As they finished dessert she told them - with more of a brogue than usual in her lilting voice - the story of how Ireland got its name.

"Centuries ago, in the time of the Tuatha de Danaan, there were three kings, Eathur, Teathur and Ceathur. And each king had a wife. Their names were Banba, Fodhla and Eire.

It was a time of peace and prosperity on the island. One hundred and ninety-seven years passed without a war. It was so peaceful that even very good friends didn't argue.

The father of the three kings decided to hold a clan gathering, and he thought, 'I'm wantin' to have a grand time this year. A contest would really liven things up.'

So when everyone was gathered, he told the people: 'It would be very nice if our island were named after one of our lovely queens.'

So the people started to talk about who was the most elegant, the most gracious, the most benevolent of the three women and which should have the honor. The father of the kings was pleased, and he thought the gathering was already seemin' better.

Each queen set out to prove she was the worthiest one. For the entire week of the gathering, not once did they lose their tempers, and no one heard them say an unkind word. When they went out, their dresses and hair were beautiful. The people were dazzled, and they wondered how one could be chosen over the other.

But the old man was very clever. The night before the announcement was to be made, he visited each queen separately in her private quarters.

'It's you who are my favorite queen. I want it to be you the land is named after. In the morning the three of you will go for a walk. After you leave, I will tell the people that the first queen to return will win. If it happens to be you, the island will be known forever in your name.'

So the next morning, the queens got ready for their walk, each one wearing her finest dress and all the gold she owned. They walked leisurely, so their elegance could be seen. Out they glided very serenely through the gate of the town.

The people were told about the contest, and went to the ramparts to watch the progress of the three queens.

Very ladylike, they were, as they walked out to the turning point. They turned, leisurely and elegant, because they knew they were being watched.

Banba was the first to pick up the pace and went out in front. Fodhla and Eire quickened their own steps. Fodlha took the lead, and the others quickened the pace, again. Unable to keep up at a walk Eire broke into a jog, kicking off her sandals. The others did the same. Encumbered by her skirt, Banba picked up the hem and flung it over her shoulder. The other queens followed suit. They neared the Dun at a flat out run, leaning forward in the effort so they could inch out ahead of the others.

On the ramparts the people were beside themselves. Some were laughin' so hard they could barely stand.

When the queens were near the gate, their hair was flying and their dresses wrinkled. Did I mention that it had been a soft evening the night before, meanin' it had been raining? Well, it had, and the entry to the dun had been trod into mud. Through the slop the three queens ran, splattering themselves and and their clothes.

Now, you all know who the winner was. The beautiful, elegant and very ladylike, Queen Eire was the first through the gate. True to his word, the old man bestowed the name of Eire on the island, by which it is known today.

So you see, the land was named after a worthy queen and one who brought joy and laughter, as well. Whether she enjoyed the laugh, herself, we'd not be knowin'."

"So is that a true story?" Arthur asked when she finished, only half joking. Emma, of course, didn't know that Monica was old enough have witnessed the contest.

The angel glanced at him sidelong. "Maybe. Maybe not."

Kemara took the microphone from Monica. "Who's next?"

Zeke stood up, grinning. "I'd like to propose a toast." He waited while everyone raised their glasses. "Here's to your coffin. May it be built of 100-year-old oaks which will we plant together tomorrow."

"Here, here," Adam, Henry and Eli chorused as the others laughed.

"Anybody else?" Kemara called.

Adam stood and reached for the mic. "I do have something...." He pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket. Unfolding it, he began to read in an exaggerated Irish accent.

"Dear Boss, I write this note to you, to tell you of my plight and at the time of writing I am not a pretty sight. Me body is all black and blue and me face a deathly gray. And I hope you'll understand, why Paddy's not at work today."

His listeners chuckled.

"I was workin' on the 14th floor, some bricks I had to clear. And throwin' them down from such a height was not a good idea. The foreman wasn't very pleased, he bein' an awful sod. He said I'd have to take them down the ladder in me hand.

Now shiftin' all those bricks by hand it seemed so awfully slow. So I hoisted up a barrel and secured a rope below."

Here, Adam dropped the note and mimed pulling on a rope and tying a knot.
"But in my haste to do the job, I was too blind to see that a barrel full of buildin' bricks was heavier than me."

They laughed as they realized where the story was headed.

"Now when I came down I cut the rope, and the barrel fell like lead. And clinging tightly to the rope, I started up instead."

Adam choked back a laugh of his own, and continued. "I shot up like a rocket and to my dismay I found -" He looked up in alarm. "That halfways up, I met the bloody barrel comin' down."

More laughter. JenniAnn wiped tears from her eyes.

"Now the barrel broke me shoulder, as to the ground it sped. And when I reached the top, I struck the pulley with me head. I still clung on though numbed in shock, from this almighty blow. And the barrel spilled out half the bricks 14 floors below."

"Now when the bricks had fallen from the barrel to the floor, I then outweighed the barrel and I started down once more. Still clinging tightly to the rope, I headed for the ground and I fell among the broken bricks that were all scattered 'round."

Adam threw himself to the floor in a dramatic sprawl, one arm upraised as though holding onto an invisible rope. A few people stood up in order to see him better.

From his prone position the angel of death went on: "As I lay there moaning on the floor, I thought I'd passed the worst. But the barrel struck the pulley wheel and then the bottom burst. A shower of bricks came down on me, sure I hadn't got a hope. And as I was losing consciousness, I let go the bloody rope." He opened his hand and let his arm fall.

His listeners were convulsed with mirth. Monica had one arm wrapped around her middle as she giggled helplessly.

"Now the barrel it being heavier, it started down once more. It landed right across me, as I lay there on the floor. I broke three ribs and my left arm and I can only say...." Adam dragged himself into a sitting position. "That I hope you'll understand why Paddy's not at work today!" He flopped back on the floor in mock exhaustion as everyone whooped and cheered.

"Adam, you should've been an actor," Kemara said. "We've got some more entertainment planned, but we'll open up the floor again later on."

As the guests stood and stretched and threw away their empty plates, the Inishfree dancers gathered at the front of the room.

"The is another traditional dance called The Cross Reel, we've just spiced up the music a bit."

Watch The Cross Reel

As they bowed, the music changed to something light and bubbly. A young girl skipped between the adults. Her bright pink and gold satin was embroidered in green and blue with black lace on the sleeves and hem. A matching headband held back her blond curls.

"Wait...." JenniAnn grabbed Andrew's hand and squeezed it tightly. "Is that Shelby?"

Andrew grinned. "Yeah, it sure is. I didn't know she'd gotten so good." Annabelle was awake in his arms, and he turned her around so she could watch her big sister.

The Inishfree adults moved back to edges of the dance floor to give Shelby room as the girl leaped and twirled. She came right up to them, nearly stepping on JenniAnn's own toes - quite deliberately - before skimming off in the opposite direction.

"Go Shelby!" Max called.

She finished with neat bow and a huge grin.

A few minutes later, now dressed in a green Inishfree sweatshirt and jeans, she made her way to their table. People patted her back or hugged her as she moved through the crowd. JenniAnn gave her a huge hug, while Andrew moved over so she could sit between the two of them.

"You were wonderful, sweetie!" JenniAnn said. Andrew, who was still holding Annabelle, kissed Shelby's cheek.

"Yeah, Shel. That was pretty amazing!"

Shelby blushed. "Thanks. I was a little scared at first, but it was fun!"

JenniAnn gave her a mock frown. "But you almost stepped on my toes!"

The girl giggled. "I know! That was Miss Kemara's idea."


"Well, not that....exactly. She told me to 'use the stage' and move around a lot, so I did."

"I should say so!" Andrew teased. "I don't think your feet were touching the ground half the time."

Keith came back over to the microphone. "Ready to work off all that food?" he asked cheerfully. Several people groaned.  "Now, now. None of that!" He motioned for them to stand up. "I'll go easy on you this time."

"Easy, he says...." Owen muttered. "Sure...."

Keith had them divide into groups of eight, two couples facing two couples down the length of the hall.

"This one's called the Siege of Ennis. If you go over to Ireland and stop by a pub, this is the dance they teach the tourists," he joked. "Because it's so simple even the non-Irish can do it."

Watch The Siege of Ennis

While they were catching their breath, Keith and the Inishfree dancers set up screens partitioning off the back of the hall. In front of the screens they placed two microphones several feet apart.

Kemara waited for Keith's nod and went over to one of the mics. "As y'all have probably noticed by now," she said with an exaggerated drawl. "I'm from the South." She waited for the chuckles to die away and went on. "And as much as I've come to love New York, sometimes I still miss Georgia - the slower pace, the warmer weather, the trees. So, some friends of mine have agreed to help bring a little bit of Georgia to New York City."

As she sat down again, a large group of children filed around the screens. They wore jeans and red or white shirts. A teenage boy in red and a small boy in white carried violin cases. The two groups ranged themselves on either side of the room, with the string players in front of the microphones.

"Sharks versus Jets, do you think?" JenniAnn whispered to Andrew. "I knew Kemara had something planned with all the kids."

Andrew whispered back. "I think there's more to it." He grinned when JenniAnn shot him a look.

"Andrew! What do you know?"

He hushed her. "Just watch." He had discovered the secret about twenty minutes earlier when he'd carried Annabelle outside for some fresh air.

The music started and the older boy raised his violin and joined in. People smiled as they recognized the tune. The angels looked over at Joshua to see his reaction. He was grinning delightedly.

"The devil went down to Georgia. He was looking for a soul to steal..."

A ripple of surprise went through the crowd as the Dyelanders and angels realized who the narrator was.

JenniAnn sat frozen in total shock with her mouth open. "Vincent?"

Andrew doubled with laughter at her expression. "I told you it was a surprise!"

"Yeah, but I had no idea..." With a huge effort she pulled herself back to the performance.

"Boy, let me tell you what." The older boy was speaking now. "I guess you didn't know it, but I'm a fiddle player too....."

The younger boy stuck out his chin. "My name's Johnny," he declared loudly. "And it might be a sin. But I'll take your bet...."

"Johnny rosin up your bow, and play your fiddle hard," the other children sang.

The younger boy played as the angels in white and the devils red danced.

"The devil opened up his case and he said - "

"I'll start this show!" The "devil" struck a pose and raised his bow.

"Fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow. Then he drew the bow across the strings and it made an evil hiss." The high, screeching note made everyone wince.

As the "devil" played, his "demons" danced around him.

"He's really good," Emma whispered to JenniAnn. "I'd love to know who his teacher was."

Adam had made his way over to them, ducking low to keep from blocking anyone's view. He sat down on Andrew's other side and leaned in close.

"So why aren't the AODs backing Johnny up?" he joked low enough for only his friend to hear. "Or Tess? She could've gotten a real "band of angels" together.

Andrew chuckled. "Too bad Tess couldn't be here tonight; she'd love this. You know, I wonder what Jacob would say. Are they angels or demons?"

"Probably depends on when you're asking!"

Johnny took up the devil's challenge and played better than anyone expected for a child who looked no older than 7. His "angels" made short work of the "demons" driving them to the far side of the room with quick footwork.

"Devil, just come on back if you ever want to try again," Johnny hollered as the devil slunk away. "I done told you once, you son of a gun, I'm the best there's ever been!"

The devil and Johnny played in tandem to a rousing finish. The audience jumped to their feet applauding enthusiastically. The children bowed and filed out again, heading for the kitchen where Monica and Rose had set out cookies and milk for them.

"Those kids are really amazing!" Emma said, shaking her head. "Do they go to one of those private arts academies?"

JenniAnn shot Andrew a worried look, unsure how to answer.

"They're part of a home school group," Andrew explained. "They have several different teachers including JenniAnn and Owen. Kemara's been giving them dance lessons."

Joshua came over to them. "JenniAnn, I'd like to give the kids my congratulations if that would be OK?"

"Sure! Come on, I'll introduce you."

Shelby jumped up. "I'll come too!"

JenniAnn led the way back to the kitchen where they found Kemara and the children giddy with success. From of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of movement outside the door as though someone had ducked quickly out of sight.

She raised her eyebrows at Kemara who nodded slightly. "Hey guys! You were fantastic! I can't believe you all kept this a secret from me for so long!" She pretended to pout and they giggled.

A tiny girl in red sidled over to Joshua and stared up at him. "Who're you?"

"You remember how I said we're doing a play about Jesus?" JenniAnn said. "This is Joshua; he's going to be our Jesus."

Joshua knelt down in front of the child. "Hi. What's your name?"


"That's a pretty name. And you danced very well." He looked up. "All of you did. And that was some awesome fiddling, you two!" he told the boys.

"How'd you get to be Jesus?" someone asked.

"Andrew asked me to step in when the first guy left."

From the back of the group, Becky said, "Jesus is like one of those Greek heroes we've been reading about."

"Yeah, but didn't they beat him up and kill him and stuff?" Chris said looking puzzled. "If he was a hero, why didn't he stop them?" He studied Joshua. "Does your play show all that?"

Joshua hesitated, "Yeah, it does."

"Cool! Can we see it? Is there lots of blood?" clamored some of the boys and even one or two girls.

JenniAnn had been listening in growing dismay. "No! Seeing a man tortured and murdered is never 'cool'!" She turned to Joshua. "I'm so sorry. I'm their religion teacher, but my lessons must not have stuck very well." She glared at the children. They stared at the floor.

"It's OK." Joshua said. He put an arm around April who had started to cry. "You know, Jesus was a hero in a lot of ways, that's true. But, let me ask you something, Chris."

Chris gulped. "Yes, sir?"

"Andrew is your friend right? And Max?"


"And you know what happened to them in Afghanistan? How they got hurt?" The boy nodded. "Was that cool?"

"No," Chris whispered almost too low to hear.

Joshua reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "They had a job to do, and they did it. They wanted to do it for everyone back home. And Jesus was the same. He had a job to do...A very, very hard job. But he wanted to do it for everyone on Earth." He looked around at them all. "Yes, they beat him up and killed him, but he knew that was part of the job when he took it."

Kemara had been listening, her arm around Shelby. "But on Easter, Jesus rose from the dead. He came back. And that is very cool."

April looked up at Joshua, her lower lip trembling. "My mommy died. Will she come back, too?"

"No, honey; I'm sorry. But you'll see her again."


Joshua smiled and raised her small hand to his lips. "I promise."

She giggled and the other children sighed and relaxed as though released from a spell.

"Well, you guys eat up!" JenniAnn urged. "We need to get you home soon."

Joshua put April down and turned to Kemara. "I could use something to drink. Want to come see what's left?" He knew JenniAnn wanted to speak with Vincent - he had noticed the swirl of the man's cloak as he stepped back from the door.

"Sure. I hope there's some Bailey's. I think I need a glass," Kemara joked.

There was half a bottle. Joshua picked it up along with two glasses and led the way to a deserted table. Keith had put on a CD, something by Loreena McKennitt, she thought.

He poured them each a drink and lifted his cup to hers. "Slainte."

"Slainte maith," Kemara said. "And that's all my Gaelic."

"That was really great with the kids just now," Joshua said after a few minutes of comfortable silence. "Actually, this whole night was a wonderful idea. I know St. Patrick would approve!"

She laughed. "Thanks. It just felt like we all needed a break. Not that I don't love the show and working on it," she added hastily. "It's just...."

"It's a little dark sometimes," he agreed. "Yeah, I know. But if you look beyond that, there's a lot of hope, too."

She stared into her cup, thinking. "Sometimes I don't understand why he went through it all, you know? I mean, obviously, I'm nowhere near the worst person who's ever lived, but I can't imagine anyone suffering like that for me. I certainly haven't done anything to deserve it." She waved a hand. "Sorry. Don't mind me; I get gloomy during Lent."

"He did it so that you might have life and have it more abundantly," Joshua said. He thought for a minute. "You've heard of St. Therese - the Little Flower?"

Kemara nodded. "Yeah, I read some of her autobiography and a couple of other books."

"Well, do you remember the story of how her older sister offered Therese a basket of ribbons and asked her which she wanted?"

"She said, 'I choose all." Kemara smiled. "But...wasn't that being selfish?"

Joshua chuckled. "For some kids, maybe. But what she was saying was, 'I choose all that God wants for me - the good and the bad. I'm totally open to it.'" He reached across the table and clasped her hands. "And that's what an abundant life means...being totally open to all the love and all the gifts that God wants to give you."

Kemara started as she recognized Monica's exact words from two weeks ago. But how could he possibly know? Surely Monica hadn't said anything.

Joshua felt her hands tense as though to pull away, and he tightened his grip. "No, don't do that. That's what I can't pull away every time someone gets close to your heart."

"Sorry. It's kind of a protective instinct by now," she mumbled. She stared at their hands to avoid his eyes. Panic rose, threatening to choke her.

He didn't frighten her exactly. But it felt as though she was standing at the edge of a cliff, both terrified and longing that someone would push her off.

"Breathe," Joshua said quietly. "In...." Obediently, she took a deep breath. "And out." When she was calmer, he asked, "Why is that such a scary idea?"

She flushed. "Because I don't know how to handle it." Her gaze flicked to where Sean and his dad were adjusting some cables on the speakers.

"You never know unless you give him a chance," Joshua pointed out. He smiled at her surprise. "What?"

"Promise you won't laugh?"

"Of course not!" He pretended to look hurt, and she smiled.

"Well....Umm...You're not an angel are you?" she said in a rush just to get the words out. "Because I've only told Monica about liking Sean. I didn't think anyone else could tell."

Joshua chuckled. "I'm flattered you think so, but no. I'm just very observant." He didn't miss the disappointment that she quickly hid. "And from what I've observed, I think Sean likes you too."

"Really?" She glanced at the young man again and then at Joshua. "Well, you're a guy....what should I do? Listen to me...I sound like I'm 16 with my first crush."

He released her hands. "Just relax and be yourself. Let him come to you if that's easier."

She nodded. "OK. That makes sense. Thanks." She finished her drink and stood up. "I'd better get back out there."

He took her hand again. "Wait. Will you do me a favor? I'd really love to see you dance - just you."

Kemara shifted nervously from foot to foot. "Well, I'm not really that good by myself. I do better with the group stuff 'cause my balance isn't that great...."

"Please. For me?"

She stared at him. "Are you sure you're not an angel?"

"Nope." He grinned. "I'll bring it up in a few minutes so it won't look like you're showing off. OK?"

"Alright. Just for you." For an awful moment she had a strong urge to kiss his cheek. She forced herself to turn away and walk over to Keith and Sean.

When she had gone, Andrew wandered over and sat down. "What was that about? If you can say, I mean. Laja noticed Kemara was looking upset. She wanted to come to her rescue, but I made her wait."

"Thanks," Joshua watched the trio who were now flipping through a binder of CDs. "We had a good talk. She wanted to know if I was an angel."

Andrew grinned. "Really? And what did you say?"

"I thanked her for the compliment and said I was just observant." He hesitated. "Very observant."

"Well, that's true! I'm really glad you talked," Andrew said more seriously. "I know what happened over the summer helped her work through a lot of things."

Joshua nodded. "Yes, but old habits die hard, as the saying goes. Being with all of you has helped her tremendously. And if she - if things - go right, that will help even more."

"You mean once she knows who you -"

Joshua held up a hand. "Hang on a second." Andrew broke off, puzzled.

"Kemara!" Joshua called. "We haven't seen you dance yet."

A chorus of voices echoed him.

"That's right," said Kylie. "You and Monica planned all this, but we haven't seen either of  you get out there."

Arthur looked surprised. He turned to Monica. "You can dance? Like that?"

She laughed. "Of course! I am Irish after all. But I think Kemara should go first."

For a second, Kemara looked panicked. Then she held up her hands. "OK. OK." She laughed, a little shakily. "Wouldn't want to make you guys beg or anything. Give me just a minute."

She went over to her bag and began to change shoes.

"You told her you would ask," Andrew guessed.

Joshua shrugged. "I didn't want to take her completely by surprise or she would've bolted."

Kemara walked to the middle of the floor and nodded to Keith.

The fiddle tune was a slow and haunting background to the quicker taps from Kemara's shoes. She danced with military precision, her gaze a million miles away. Joshua watched her, enchanted. And he wasn't the only one, Andrew realized. Sean was also watching Kemara intently. When she stumbled slightly, he leaned over and said something to Keith.

The music changed abruptly. The tune was the same, but this time there was a driving rock beat behind it. Kemara laughed as Sean came out to join her, turning the solo into a duet. Joshua started to clap along, and the others joined him.

They finished to thunderous applause. Sean put an arm around Kemara's waist and led her over to the Dyelanders.

As they passed Joshua, he reached out and squeezed her hand.  "That was beautiful. Thank you."

She blushed. "You're welcome."

Andrew had pulled over a couple of chairs for them. "Oh, I'm beat!" Kemara said dropping into one. Sean started toward the food tables, but JenniAnn waved him back.

"Both of you sit down. I'll get you something to drink."

"Tea, please," Kemara said, and Sean nodded.

"You guys must've practiced that for hours," Rose said.

"Uh, no actually that was totally off the cuff." He shrugged dismissively.  "It's something you learn to do after a while."

"So you've been dancing for a long time, then?" As JenniAnn set cups in front of them, she noticed Kemara was making point of not looking at Sean. Interesting....

Sean chuckled. "Oh yeah! My grandparents on my dad's side came over from Ireland just after they married. Trad music and dance is really big in my family. Of course, dad teaches, like he said. My younger sister, Ciara, was really big into step dancing when she was younger - went to the World Championships twice. Now, she helps out at Inishfree when she has the time. She has five kids though, so that's not very often!"

They all laughed.

"And what about you?"

"I competed some too, but it was never a big deal for me. When Inishfree started adult classes, Dad convinced me to give it a try. We go to a feis every now and then, but mostly it's just shows like tonight. Folks in pubs are pretty impressed by the easy stuff...especially after they've had a few beers."

"Sometimes too much so," Kemara said sarcastically.

Sean grinned at her. "Well, yeah there was that one guy who kept trying to look up the girls' skirts."

"We weren't wearing skirts." She reminded him. "We switched to pants because of some idiot just like him the week before!"

"He was drunk....I'm sure he couldn't tell the difference."

More laughter at this.

"What's your story, Kemara?" Emma asked.

Kemara shrugged. "Nothing amazing. I saw Riverdance on TV and fell in love. It took me six months to get up the courage to call about classes, though."


"Well, I didn't think any school would take a 20-something adult with cerebral palsy. But Eileen agreed to try it. I had to fight my parents tooth-and-nail since classes were an hour away in Atlanta, but my best friend agreed to do it too, so she drove."

She sighed. "Eileen was wonderful. She worked with me, and she was just so supportive. When that first competition came up, I figured adults couldn't participate, but Eileen was like, 'You're not dead, are you?'"

They all laughed.

"So how did that go?" JenniAnn asked. "I know you don't like getting up in front of people." She grinned. "Although, from what we've seen tonight, you seem to have gotten over it."

Kemara smiled, a bit embarrassed. "Well, dancing's different. It's just something I have to do, you know? .... no matter who's watching. The competition was exciting, and it was probably good I didn't know much about it all or I would have been terrified."

She took a sip of her tea, thinking. "I was entered in the adult beginner reel and jig...I think there were 12 other people. And the reel was pretty much a disaster. I almost fell. So the jig was in a different room - we were at a hotel in the ballrooms - and it was really small and crowded.

"Anyway, as soon as I started to dance I felt hands here -" She put her hands on her hips. "holding me steady." She flushed and looked around as if challenging them to doubt her. "I know that sounds crazy, but I really could feel them! Maybe it was just adrenaline, but I've never danced as well, before or since. I remember glancing down and thinking, 'Is this me?' because it was so amazing."

From the corner of her eye, JenniAnn saw Monica trying to hide a smile.

"That's pretty cool," Sean said. "Do you think it was an angel? My grandma told me a story once about when a group of monks were building a monastery in Ireland. One monk was on the roof when he overbalanced and started to fall backwards. Something slammed into him from behind and threw him back onto the roof."

Kemara nodded slowly. "Yeah, I do. I don't know why an angel would be involved in something so minor. I mean, I got third place, and Eileen and I were crying and hugging and jumping up and down, but it's not like it was a big deal."

JenniAnn was sure now. Monica's smile and her continued silence only confirmed it.

"But it was pretty big deal to you personally, right?" She pointed out gently.

"Yeah," Kemara blinked back tears. "It was. I can look back now and see how many things happened because of that moment...going to Ireland, deciding to join the Catholic church...."

Rose picked up the tea pot and upended it over her cup. "Looks like we're out."

"I'll make some more," JenniAnn said, taking the pot from her. "Monica can you lend me a hand? It looks like the scones are running low, too."

When they were safely in the kitchen, JenniAnn filled the kettle and turned to Monica who was piling fresh scones onto a tray. "Was it you?"

"Yes." She rinsed out the pot and added more tea bags. "I had just finished an assignment at the hotel that morning. I was walking through the lobby when I heard the music, so I asked if I could stay and watch for a wee bit."

"I agree with Kemara - that is pretty amazing." JenniAnn said. "I mean, you'd never seen her before, had you?"

Monica shook her head. "No, the Father just asked me to step in."

"And she's not certain it was an angel, much less one who she would become friends with 15 years later."

They worked in silence for a few minutes, then Monica said, "Do you think I should tell her?"

"That it was an angel or you in particular?"

Monica nodded. "Both, I suppose."

JenniAnn thought for a minute. "No....not unless she asks you straight out. She's pretty certain an angel helped her, and maybe it's best to leave it at that. Sometimes we humans don't want to know the reasons behind things. It's enough that they happened. But knowing the why....that kinda spoils the magic."

Monica still looked puzzled so she continued. "It's like Santa Claus. As a really little kid you might believe that he's real, but as you grow up you start to doubt, but part of you wants to keep believing. So even though you know your parents are leaving the presents because you snuck downstairs and saw them, you still pretend it was Santa. You just want to hold on to that."

As they returned to the table, Kylie asked, "Will you play something, Joshua?"

"Sure, if someone will bring in my guitar."

Peter stood up. "I'll get it." He caught the keys Joshua tossed to him. "Which car?"

"The one with the bumper sticker that says, 'My other car is a donkey'," Andrew said managing to keep a straight face.

The angels snickered, and Joshua raised an eyebrow. "Oh? That wasn't there this afternoon."

"We thought it was appropriate - under the circumstances," Violeta explained.

Joshua grinned and shook his head. "I suppose I don't need to ask who 'we' is."

Peter came back in and gave keys and guitar to Joshua.

"Now, this isn't an Irish song," Joshua said as he tuned the instrument. "But I think it fits the occasion."

He began to play, and Zeke sang, "I danced in the morning when the world was begun. I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun...."

From her seat next to Adam, Kylie joined in on the chorus. "Dance, dance, wherever you may be. I am the Lord of the dance, said he. And I lead you all wherever you may be. And I lead you all in the dance said he."

As more people lifted their voices, Andrew studied Joshua. He found himself profoundly moved at the sight of the creator of the universe accompanying his own story. Beside him, JenniAnn noticed the tears in his eyes.

"What is it, love?"

He turned to smile at her and wrapped an arm around her drawing her and the sleeping baby close. "Just happy."

"I danced for the scribes and the pharisees, but they would not dance. They wouldn't follow me."

Adam watched Joshua's hands as they moved over the guitar's strings. Those same hands had planed wood, chiseled stone, blessed children, healed the sick, raised the dead. Those hands had broken bread, raised a cup of wine, been chained and finally pierced by cruel nails. Yet, they were now whole and unmarked.

He studied his own hands made in the image of those he loved so much. No, he promised. I will never wash my hands of you.

"I danced for the fishermen, for James and John. And they came with me, and the dance went on."

Monica rested her head on Arthur's shoulder and let the music and the words wash over her. They took her back to a Jerusalem street where had she strained to catch a glimpse of the beloved face as he rode in triumph into the city. Finally, they realize who he is, she remembered thinking. Now they understand! And then, just a few days later, seen that same face an unrecognizable mask of blood and sores as some of those same people drove him to his death.

She bit back a sob, but of course Arthur noticed. "You OK?"

"Just memories," she said wiping her eyes.

"Bad ones?"

She thought for a minute. "Good and bad. But mostly good." And that was true, because the horrible things that had happened that Friday were over, and hope had been reborn. Joshua was with them, and "soon" - to use his favorite word - her friends would know and love him for himself.

"I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame. The holy people said it was a shame. They whipped, they stripped, they hung me high. Left me there on a cross to die."

Violeta listened in growing horror. She wanted to cover her ears and run out of the room.

"What is it?" Eli leaned close, concerned.

She squirmed. "How can they sing about, about something so horrible? How can they be so -" she searched for the right word. "Flippant about it?"

"I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black. It's hard to dance with the devil on your back."

Eli turned his chair so they were partially hidden from the others. "They're not, I promise. I know this has been hard for you, but you need to keep in mind what Joshua told us: 'remember that every moment, every word, led to Sunday'."

He blinked back tears and squeezed her hands. "And I'm so glad they did. Because of what he went through, Sophia's death wasn't the end, and I can see and talk to her any time I want to."

Violeta smiled and wiped her eyes. "Yes, that's true."

Henry, who was sitting nearby, had overheard. "Just think what our jobs would be like, Violeta, if Joshua hadn't opened the gates of death," he said quietly. "Every time you escort someone home, it's because of what he did - not just for them but for all of us."

Violeta nodded, and Eli hugged her. "So cheer up little ducking, and listen to the rest of the song."

"They cut me down and I leaped up high. I am the life that will never, never die. I'll live in you if you'll live in me. I am the Lord of the dance, said he."

The humans and angels all joined in on the final chorus. "Dance, dance, wherever you may be. I am the Lord of the dance, said he. And I lead you all wherever you may be. And I lead you all in the dance said he."

As Joshua strummed the final chords there was no applause. Into the silence, Fr. Mike spoke up. "Amen."

"Amen," they replied and then the applause came and some laughter as they all relaxed.

Joshua set aside the guitar. "Anyone else want to have a turn?"

Kylie raised a hand hesitantly. "I think I would. If - I can sit here and not stand up?"

"That's fine," Adam assured her. "Whatever works for you."

She began to sing, shakily at first but growing confidence.

"When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary; when troubles come and my heart burdened be; then, I am still and wait here in the silence. Until you come and sit awhile with me."

Adam blinked back tears. He was amazed once again at the human capacity to love and trust. After everything that Kylie had been through, and was still going through, that she could still hold on to her faith was astounding.

"You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas. I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be."

Joshua closed his eyes and prayed to his Father that in the coming days he could raise all of them up, strengthen their faith and show them how just much they were loved.

When the song finished, her friends surrounded Kylie with compliments, remembering how shy she had been at the start of rehearsals.

Kemara gave Kylie a warm hug and made her way through the crowd to the food. Not much was left at this late hour, but there was still some fruit and dip. She was filling a plate and trying to remember the name of the song Keith had playing when Sean appeared at her elbow.

"Hey, do you, uh, wanna dance?" He held out his hand.

She stared at him in astonishment. Over his shoulder, she caught sight of Joshua watching them. He smiled and gave her a wink.

She took a deep breath. Then, setting down the plate, she reached for Sean's hand.

"I'd love to."

Playlist (all songs available on iTunes)

1. Shipping Up to Boston - Jig tune by The Dropkick instrumental version.
2. Waves of Tory - Jig tune traditional ceili dance
3. Dear Boss - This version by Robbie O'Connell
4. The Cross Reel - Reel tune traditional ceili dance performed to "Matt's and Nat's" by Natalie MacMaster
5. Soggy's/Waterboogie - Shelby's slip jig to tunes by Beoga
6. Siege of Ennis - Jig tune traditional ceili dance
7. The Devil Went Down to Georgia - Reel tune by The Charlie Daniels Band. This performance uses an instrumental version so they can add their own fiddling and vocals.
8. King of the Fairies - Kemara's solo dance. Traditional tune and set dance
9. Lord of the Dance - Contemporary hymn written to the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts."
10. You Raise Me Up - Originally by Josh Groban. This version is by Celtic Woman

The grace before meals that Joshua says was written by Izola White.
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