New Beginnings
by Kim

Saturday, May 17

Kemara closed the studio door on the warm New York evening. To her surprise she heard not reels and jigs, but raised voices.
“What in the world?” Easing through the lobby, she peaked into the studio itself.

Their teacher, Elaine Evans, hadn’t arrived yet, but five or six people stood in a huddle, arguing intently. She listened, but couldn’t quite make out their words. Since she’d begun dancing with this group she’d found them to be laid back and just fun to hang out with. They never argued like this.

She ducked into one of the changing rooms where the voices were muffled but still audible. When she came out, Sean beckoned her over from his place next to the stereo.

“What’s going on?” She waved to Violeta across the room and sat down on the bench beside him to change into her soft shoes.

“The 9/11 museum opens to the public on Wednesday,” he said quietly. “Joanne lost a cousin in the North tower.” He passed her a copy of the Times, the front page splashed with a photo of the museum’s angular, glassed-in entrance. “She’ll give her opinion about the museum to anyone who asks, or even if they don’t.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.” Kemara glanced over at the other woman who had just turned away from the group, wiping at her eyes with a tissue.
“She doesn’t talk about it much, but she’s very adamant about hating the museum,” Sean said. “Not the memorial so much, but she feels like a museum is disrespectful.”

Kemara skimmed the article. “Wow, $24 a ticket. That’s a bit much, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but supposedly it goes toward operating costs.” Sean zipped up his bag and shoved it under the bench.

Kemara folded the paper and said nothing, but he caught the look on her face. “What?”

“It’s just…I’d kind of like to go…sometime.” She flushed. “It sounds so weird to say that. I mean, who wants to visit a cemetery?”

He smiled. “Well, all the Civil War buffs who visit Gettysburg, or the veterans who go to Arlington, or Normandy, or…”

“You know what I mean!” She gave him a little shove. “This happened in our lifetime. That makes it different.”

“I know.” He put one foot up on the bench, adjusting the buckle of his shoe. After a minute he said. “I want to go too. Maybe we could…go together?”

She gaped at him. “What? On Wednesday, you mean?”

“Yeah.” He still didn’t look at her. “I don’t know if I can get tickets this late. I told you my grandfather was a firefighter, and we know some people…But if I can?”

Kemara thought quickly. In the weeks since Joshua’s departure, her friendship with Sean had deepened. Knowing God approved of their fledgling relationship eased her mind…at least about some things. They had gone to the movies with Max and Rose and met Peter and Emma for dancing at a Greenwich Village club. But this would be the first real outing with just the two of them.

“OK. Maybe we can grab something to eat?”

Sean looked relieved. “Sure!” He paused. “As long as we don’t miss the ceili that night. My dad would kill me!” He shuddered in mock horror.

“Oh we can’t have that! God forbid Keith should get upset.” They laughed, and she felt a little better.

Elaine breezed in weighed down as usual with a huge binder full of CDs.

“What are you all just standing around for?” She clapped her hands. “You should be moving! Always moving!” Like Violeta, Elaine was never still. She often joked that the angel, with her bottomless energy, was her favorite pupil. She put a CD in the stereo and started them on jumping jacks.

“Something wrong?” Violeta whispered as they settled on the floor to stretch.

Kemara shook her head. “No. Tell you later.”

While they were taking a water break, she explained about the museum.

The angel’s eyes lit up. “That’s so neat! Your first real date!”

Kemara grimaced. “I don’t know if I like the idea of our first date being something like this. Not really a happy memory, you know?”

Violeta deflated a bit. “That’s true. But still…it’s more meaningful than a movie, right?”

“Yeah. Sean mentioned his grandfather was a firefighter in New Jersey, so that’s probably why he wants to go. And me…” She shrugged. “I experienced it all through the news. But now that I’m living here….this is where most of it happened. Morbid curiosity, I guess.”

Violeta sighed. “I was still in Records. Joshua told me; he didn’t want me hearing about it from someone else. And he said I’d be spending a lot of time in New York eventually.” She grinned, unable to stay sad for long. “He was right about that!”

“He always is.” Kemara bit her lip. “Give him my love next time you see him? I mean, I tell him so all the time, but you actually see him in person, so…”

Violeta squeezed her hand. “Of course I will. Can you come to dinner? I’m not sure who will be there, but Andrew’s cooking.”

“I wish I could, but I have two articles to write, and…”


She hesitated. “OK. I’ll be glad for a break by then. As long as there’s coffee.”

Violeta rolled her eyes. “Umm…this is JenniAnn we’re talking about. Of course there will be coffee.”


That night, after vanilla ice cream sprinkled with crushed Froot Loops - Violeta’s creation in honor of Joshua - and with the promised coffee in front of her, Kemara told Andrew and JenniAnn about the upcoming outing.

JenniAnn shivered and cuddled Belle closer. “I don’t think I could go, myself. Maybe when Belle is older and learns about it in school I could bring myself to go with her. But until then, no.”

“I’ve been to the Holocaust museum in Washington, but this is more personal.” Kemara stopped, realizing that for JenniAnn, the Holocaust was personal now because of Chava. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s alright.”

Andrew wrapped an arm around JenniAnn’s shoulders. “You don’t have explain, Kemara. I’ve been by the memorial, and I think it’s really moving. If the museum helps keep that sort of thing from happening again, I’m all for it.”

JenniAnn attempted a smile. “So is visiting the museum all you two have planned?” she teased.

Kemara blushed. “Well, we’ll probably get lunch afterward, and we don’t want to miss the ceili.”

“I can’t wait to hear all the details!” Violeta said.

“Hey! Some stuff is private!” Kemara protested. “Or between us and Joshua anyway.”

She sighed. “Actually, I’m kinda glad we’ll have the ceili afterward. I know Sean’s going to ask one of these days where I live, and that could be awkward.”

Andrew looked thoughtful. “Well, he has met Joshua, and you know Joshua approves of him. If you wanted to show him the portal - we’d ask everyone of course - but I think that would be OK.”

“No….” Kemara shook her head. “Not…yet. I’m not ready for that right now. Maybe in a few more weeks, or months….”

“Well, there are some pretty nice apartments over on 15th Street. I’ve heard Catherine mention them,” JenniAnn said. “That’s close. Just tell him you’ve got a place on 15th.”

Tuesday, May 20

“So how are things with you and Sean?” Owen asked as he and Kemara made their way toward the dining chamber following morning classes in the Tunnels. “Ready for your big outing?”

She looked at him in surprise. “How do you know about that?”

He just raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, right. Violeta,” she said as they joined the others in line for William’s soup and homemade bread. 

“Pretty good. We’ve been doing stuff together just about every day, seems like. Usually with friends from dance class, but we’ve gotten dinner together, just us.”

Owen glanced at her as he picked up his tray. On a hunch, he led her to a quiet corner table where they wouldn’t be overheard. “But?”

“But, what?”

He smirked. “But that’s not all. Come on, this is me you’re talking to! What’s wrong?”

“Well…” She concentrated on crumbling bread into her soup to avoid his gaze. “It’s just…”

Owen frowned. “Sean’s not getting pushy, is he? Because if he is -“

“No! Not at all. He’s been very nice.” She blushed. “This -” she waved a hand. “ feels different. Like it means more. Violeta called it our ‘first real date.’ I don’t know if it’s that exactly. I guess I’m just worried.” She took a deep breath and forced the words out. “That I might be too pushy.”

He thought of several replies to this, but settled for, “Why?”

Kemara took a fortifying sip of water. “I’ve never really had a boyfriend before or gone on dates. In high school and college, guys weren’t interested. And after that they were co-workers.” She fiddled with her spoon. “I guess I'm just afraid that if things don’t work out between me and Sean….”

“There won’t be anyone else?” Owen finished gently.

She nodded. “I’m not like JenniAnn. I want…everything…marriage and babies and - everything else.” She groaned and put her head in her hands. “Oh God! I sound like a soppy teenager!”

“It makes perfect sense really,” Owen said. “I mean, you are a teenager as far as stuff like this goes, right? So of course you’re thinking like one.”

Kemara sighed. “I guess. I just…I wish I could talk to Joshua…see what he has to say?”

“You still can,” he pointed out. “He just won’t answer the same way he did when he was here.”

“And that’s the problem. How would I know it was his voice, and not just wishful thinking?”

Owen thought for a minute. “Well, I’m not him, obviously. But he did give me some good advice. Basically, he said that you have to consider the consequences when you enter into a relationship….Not just the physical, but the emotional and spiritual, too. So if you’re looking at a relationship just as a way to experience something new, then you’re cheapening yourself, Sean and the experience - whatever that is.”

She looked stricken. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought about it like that. I guess I was being selfish.”

“It’s OK. I think people do that a lot.” He smiled at her, hoping to lighten the mood. “So what sorts of things have you two been doing?”

“Well, mostly music stuff…a Celtic festival Sunday afternoon, a band at a pub last night.” She took a bite of bread. “And we like to try new food if it’s cheap. Speaking of….William ought to start up a food truck. He’d be rich in no time.” 

Owen laughed. “Yeah, that would be one way to bring in more money!”

Wednesday, May 21

Kemara woke early and spent twenty minutes trying to decide what to wear. Finally, she chose a simple, knee-length navy dress with matching sandals. She made her way over the Willowveil for breakfast unsure if she could eat anything.

“Are you nervous?” JenniAnn asked, setting a cup of coffee in front of her.

“Thanks.” Kemara took a cautious sip, then a larger one when her stomach didn’t rebel. “Yeah, a little bit. I don’t do well with public displays of grief.” She shrugged, looking a little ashamed. “I guess it comes from working in newspapers for so long…If I cried at every awful story or photo on the wire, I’d never get any work done. So I tend to be pretty stoic.”

Violeta put a comforting hand on her arm. “You know, that’s one thing I’m learning…how people show their grief in different ways. How you deal with it is unique to you. So don’t worry about it.”

Kemara squeezed her hand. “She’s pretty smart,” she informed Andrew who was giving Belle a bottle. “You and Monica and Joshua have trained her well.”

He grinned. “Yeah, I think we’ll keep her.”

“Hey!” Violeta tossed a wadded up napkin at her supervisor. It hit him in the nose, and bounced into his empty cereal bowl.

“Two points!” he joked. “Kemara, where are you and Sean meeting up?”

“St. Mary Mag’s since he’s coming from the opposite direction. We’ll take the E train in.” She glanced at her phone. “And speaking of, I’d better get moving.”

As she stood, JenniAnn hugged her. “It sounds weird to say ‘have fun,’ but….”

“Nah, I’m sure we will. We’re getting lunch and whatever.”

Violeta giggled. “And whatever….”


Kemara stood by the fountain only for a few minutes before Sean arrived. Like her, he was soberly dressed in khakis and a light blue button-down shirt instead of his usual T-shirt and jeans.

He went to her at once, wrapping his arms around her. She sighed and rested her head against his chest, listening to the reassuring thump of his heart under her ear.

“You ready to do this?”

“What if I said ‘no’?”

She felt him take a deep breath. “Well….I’m sure we could think of something else to pass the time. I took today off, and I’d rather not spend it at the office.”

She laughed and felt a tiny bit better.

“Kemara? Sean?”

Reluctantly, she pulled away. Father Mike stood in the open doorway of the church looking at them with some concern. “Good morning, Father Mike.”

“Mass doesn’t start for another hour,” the priest said, coming to join them. “But I don’t think that’s why you’re here.”

“No sir,” Sean kept an arm around Kemara’s shoulders. “Actually, we’re on our way to the 9/11 museum, and this was the closest place to meet.”

Mike sighed. “That’s right; I just saw it on the news - there’s quite a crowd already.”

“Do you….do you think it’s wrong to go?” Kemara asked. “It just feels like exploiting them somehow…the people who died.”

"No, I don't think so. You're going to remember them, right? You're not going to gawk and point?"

"Of course not!"

He smiled. "Then I don't see any problem. And I'm certain our mutual friend would say the same."

For a moment Kemara looked confused, but then she laughed. "Since you put it that way, I'm sure he would!"

Sean glanced at his watch. "We need to go if we don't want to miss the ceremony."

“God bless, and enjoy your day,” Mike waved and turned to go back inside.

When they were on the train, Sean asked, "So who's 'our mutual friend'?"

"Oh, Joshua." Kemara smiled wistfully. “He and Father Mike go back a long way."

Sean nodded. "Joshua's a great guy. Wish I'd had the chance to talk with him more. Have you heard what he's up to these days?"

"Not personally, but Andrew said he's staying pretty busy." Despite the pang of loss whenever she thought of the carpenter, Kemara had to stifle a grin. As the second person of the Trinity, it was no lie that he was always busy.

About fifteen other people got off with them at World Trade Center station. As they neared the memorial park they could see Father Mike had been right - a large crowd waited in front of the museum entrance.

“Wow,” Kemara swallowed nervously. “I didn’t realize there would be so many people.”

“Let’s see if we can get closer,” Sean took her hand and they gently pushed their way to one side of the speaker’s stand where the crush was less.

Kemara was surprised to find herself in tears during the brief ceremony as firefighters and police, aided by a group of children, unfurled the National 9/11 flag in front of the museum’s entrance. The flag was found nearly destroyed in the rubble of the towers and taken to all 50 states where it was repaired with pieces of other American flags.

“Today is a very important day. We’re here to remember, pay tribute and learn about what happened on 9/11. But we’re also here to remember, pay tribute, and to learn about what happened on 9/12,” said the speaker. “People from all around the world came here to help us in our time of need.”

The lines to enter the museum moved fairly quickly. There was a security checkpoint just inside the doors, and then five different people checked their tickets and IDs.

“Enjoy!” the final attendant said handing the tickets back.

“I hope not,” Sean muttered as they passed through the turnstile into an open foyer area. Here, stairs and an escalator led both up and down - up to a cafe and restrooms the signs said  - and down to the darkness of the museum’s lobby level.

Writing about in her journal that night, Kemara realized she had little memory of the museum as a whole. It was simply too overwhelming. Certain exhibits stood out - the contents of someone’s wallet spread for all the world to see, a wall plastered with missing persons flyers, increasingly frantic voicemail messages to and from family members.

When they climbed back into the sunlight after three hours, she was exhausted and emotionally drained.

Sean bought two bottles of water from a kiosk, and gave her one. “Let’s walk a bit.” Hand-in-hand they wandered for a while among the trees and benches listening to the sound of the waterfalls and enjoying the cool breeze.

“Were you home that day?”

“No, actually. You remember I mentioned my grandfather? Well, he died on September 8, so we were in New Jersey for his funeral on the 11th. We couldn’t get back into the city for a few days after that. So I was with my family, but not here.” He was silent for a minute. “The funeral was at 10, and as soon as it was over, all the Jersey officers who had been in the motorcade packed up their gear and went to help. What about you?”

“I was on vacation about six hours away from home. I didn’t start to really process it all until that Friday while I was waiting on my parents to pick me up. I had the TV on for hours just trying to make sense of it all.” She shook her head. “Not possible, but I thought it might be.”

Sean sighed. “Not then and not today either.”

They turned back toward the memorial pools with their rows in incised names.

“Do you know the name of Joanne’s cousin? We could look for it.” The woman was the first person Kemara knew who had lost a family member, and she wanted to honor her somehow.

He nodded. “I think so. There’s a directory.”

A few minutes searching the database directed them to the appropriate area on the memorial. As she traced the cut-out letters Kemara realized that knowing about just this one person in a very indirect way, made that horrible day very personal.

“Do you have a piece of paper?” Sean asked. “Let’s make a copy for her.”

Kemara rummaged through her purse, and tore a sheet from her reporter’s notebook. “Here. But I only have a pen.”

“You can use my pencil,” an older gentleman beside them offered. “Someone you know?”

“Thanks.” Sean took it. “No, the cousin of a friend. I don’t think she’s been here, but she might like a rubbing.”

“Why did you say that?” Kemara asked. ‘Someone you know’?”

The man smiled. “I’m from California so I didn’t lose anyone that day. But it seems to me that what this place is supposed to do…” His gesture encompassed both the memorial and the museum. “Is to keep these people who died alive for us so everyone can know who they are. Not who they were.”

“I like that. It’s kinda hopeful thinking of it that way,” Kemara said feeling the agony of what they had just seen lift a bit.

They thanked him, and, with the rubbing safely in Kemara’s notebook, made their way back to the subway station. A hot dog stand close to the entrance was surrounded by customers. As they passed it, Kemara’s stomach growled loudly and she giggled. “Sorry! I was too nervous to eat any breakfast.”

“I guess it’s time for lunch, then!” Sean steadied her as they descended the steps. “There’s a great place in Alphabet City. It’s about half an hour by train, but I think you’ll like it.”

“That’s fine. It’s noon now, so by the time we get there maybe the lunch rush will be over.”

They found seats, and Kemara took out her phone which she’d kept turned off until now. “Let’s see….text from JenniAnn she says, ‘Hope the visit is going well. Enjoy your day!’ And one from Violeta…” She trailed off, reading silently. “What?”

Sean frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Violeta says, ‘Saw you on TV at noon. They were covering the museum, and we saw you right up close. Tell Sean that blue shirt goes great with his eyes. Hugs!’”

Kemara put her phone back in her purse. “Not sure I like being on TV like that.”

Sean was studying the sleeve of his shirt as though he’d never seen it before. “Really? This shirt goes great with my eyes? I just picked it because it was clean and didn’t need to be ironed.”

“Well, that is the best way to choose clothes, but if they match your eyes, even better,” Kemara said sarcastically.

He grinned. “Oh. That’s OK then.”


Bob White’s Lunch Counter was a tiny corner shop on a pleasant tree-lined street. Moishe’s deli had taught Kemara that in New York City sometimes the best food could be found in such unassuming places. Sure enough, the tables and chairs were basic and the menu one page printed on brown kraft paper.

Kemara looked over it with a growing sense of disbelief….fried chicken, catfish sandwiches, cole slaw, biscuits, sweet tea….with banana pudding for dessert.

She looked up to find Sean watching her anxiously.

“I love you,” she blurted. Then, blushing fiercely as she realized what she’d said, she stared down at the menu, not seeing it.

Sean relaxed and leaned back in his chair. “Good. So the way to your heart is through your stomach?”

“Only if it’s Southern food,” she mumbled, wishing she could sink through the floor.

“Then my plan is working.” He sounded very pleased with himself.

“Oh? What plan is that?”

“The one to make you fall madly in love with me.”

That got her attention. Her head shot up. Surely, he was joking. He liked to joke around, totally straight-faced. This was just more of his teasing.

He held up a hand. “Wait. Actually, that’s not true.”

“Oh…” He was joking then. She felt a tiny pang of disappointment.

“Not madly. I think I’m crazy enough for both of us….but-”

She giggled. “I know that’s right!”

“Hey! Here I am declaring my undying devotion, and you’re laughing!” He pretended to pout. “I’m hurt.”

“Because you deserve it, you eejit.” She felt happiness welling up like it hadn’t since Joshua had left.

Sean winced. “You’ve been talking to dad. He calls me that all the time.”  

The waitress came over then to take their orders and saved her from replying. Sean chose the fried chicken and potato salad, while Kemara decided on a catfish sandwich with cole slaw.

“So how much of the city have you seen since you moved here?” he asked while they ate.

She tried not to guzzle her sweet tea. “Not much, really. Central Park, Times Square, touristy stuff like that.”

He snorted. “There’s a lot more to the city than ’touristy stuff’. I see I shall have to educate you.”

“Well, if it involves eating at great places like this, I’m all for it!”

“I think I can come up with a few more.”

To her surprise, Sean turned down the waitress’ offer of dessert. “I think we’ll take a rain check.”

When they were outside he said, “We’ll come back sometime; but I have a better idea right now.”

He led her to a gelato shop a few blocks away that was surprisingly busy for 2 p.m. on a Wednesday. With the first bite of her salted caramel waffle cone, she understood why.

“It’s a good thing we dance so much, otherwise I’d be huge eating like this all the time.”

Sean laughed. “Isn’t it great? My sister Ciara loves this place. And it’s cheap enough that she and Brad can bring all the kids without breaking the bank. She likes the crazy flavors like fig and goat cheese. But me…” He held up his cone. “I stick with chocolate.”

The mention of figs reminded her of Joshua, and she sent a prayer of thanks his way. His words to her at their last breakfast, “Find a partner in your dance,” seemed to be coming true.

The shop had no free chairs, so they left and wandered back toward the subway station.

“You’ve never met Ciara, have you?” Sean asked. “You should come to dinner one night when the whole gang’s over at mom and dad’s. We can get pretty loud, but it’s a lot of fun.”

“That would be great! I’ve spoken to her in passing at shows, but I would like to get to know her better.” She gave him a sly smile. “I’m sure she has all kinds of stories to tell about you.”

He groaned. “Then again. …”

As they waited for the train to arrive, Kemara marveled at the change in their relationship that just one day had brought. Even if Sean wasn’t serious about the undying love part, asking her to have dinner with his family was definitely a step forward. Too bad she couldn’t invite him to have dinner with her family. Or maybe she could….

She was so distracted by this new idea that Sean had to practically drag her into a car.

“Huh?” She flushed as she realized he’d asked her a question she hadn’t even heard.

He was frowning a little. “You OK?”

“Sorry. I was just thinking about something I need to do tonight.”

“I asked, are we officially a couple now?”

Her heart sped up. Wasn’t it too soon for this? But, they had known each other since she’d moved to New York, so maybe not. “Hmm…I suppose so since you’ve declared your undying devotion.”

“I dare you to send out announcements,” he joked.

“JenniAnn would love that!”

They were silent for the last few minutes before Kemara’s stop.

“See you tonight?” he asked as they drew into the station.

“Yeah. Definitely going to have to take a nap first, but I’ll be there.”


Dinner that evening at Willowveil was a full house: Andrew, JenniAnn (and Belle, of course), Violeta, Rose, Max, Arthur and Monica. They tried to get together for dinner at least once a month, and that happened to be tonight. As Kemara waited for a lull in the conversation, she wondered if Joshua had done some plotting.

She took a deep breath and dived in. “I’d like to ask Sean to the cookout on Saturday. If it’s alright with all of you, and….” She gestured toward the ceiling.

JenniAnn looked surprised. “No, that’s fine….But this morning you said you wanted to wait before introducing him to Dyeland. What made you change your mind?”

Kemara blushed. She’d known her friends would wonder, and she’d spent the rest of the afternoon trying to come up with an explanation that didn’t sound like they were rushing things.

Rose saw her indecision. “We’re not trying to pry,” she said gently. “We just want you to be absolutely sure.”

“I know. We had a great time today. I mean - the museum wasn’t fun, but I’m glad I went. For lunch we had Southern food…”

Max grinned and nudged Rose. “Ahh…I think I understand, now. He went to the trouble of finding somewhere she’d really like.”

Kemara blushed. “Yeah. He uh, he said it was part of his plan to make me fall madly in love with him.”

The others chuckled.

“Sounds like he’ll fit right in,” Arthur joked. “I talked to him a bit while we were in Albany. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. Told me to let him know if we ever need help with wiring or electronics since he’s got some experience there.”

“Have you told your parents about him, yet?” Violeta asked.

“Uh-huh. I told mom he’s an accountant, and she said, ‘Don’t let him get away! You know you’re terrible at math,’” Kemara laughed.

“I don’t think anyone here has any objections,” Andrew said, looking around. Everyone shook their heads.

“And God’s OK with it?” Kemara asked.

Andrew smiled. “He’s very happy for you and Sean.”


Sean met her at the fellowship hall as soon as she arrived.

“Do you have that rubbing we made this morning? Joanne’s here. She saw us on TV, and she’s furious.”

“It’s in my bag.” As she reached for her notebook, Kemara glanced around the large room.

Only a few people had arrived so far - the two elderly couples who hadn’t missed a ceili in ten years and Sean’s father, Keith. Father and son always came early to set up the sound system and move any chairs and tables out of the way. Joanne was beside him, waving her hands and looking close to tears again.

“Found it.” She carefully slid the page out of the notebook.

“Come on.” He sighed. “I hope this doesn’t get nasty.”

Together they crossed the room to Keith and Joanne. When the latter saw them, she flushed with anger. “How could you? I saw you two on the news!”

“We didn’t know that would happen,” Sean said. “Believe me, we weren't’ happy about it either.”

Kemara held out the slip of paper. “We made this for you. We - we know you haven’t been, and we thought you might like to have it. I can go back with some better paper if you want.”

Joanne snatched the page and stared at it, uncomprehending. Then the color drained out of her face. Tears welled in her eyes.

“Joanne….” Sean got no further as the woman threw her arms around him, sobbing.

He hugged her back, looking slightly alarmed.

Kemara glanced at Keith and raised her eyebrows. The older man just shrugged.

Joanne pulled away from Sean and hugged Kemara, too. “Thank you,” she managed. “Crissy and I were best friends growing up. When it happened….I hadn’t spoken to her in years….We just grew apart I guess. And then, I realized that I’d never have the chance again.”

Sean patted her shoulder. “Well, maybe she wanted us to make that rubbing so you would have it.”

“Yes,” I think so.” Joanne studied the paper, running her finger over the debossed letters. “I think maybe I should visit myself.” She looked up at them, some of her usual fire returning. “Just the memorial - not the museum!”

Kemara smiled. “Of course. Let me know if you want some company.”

Joanne nodded. “I’ll do that, Excuse me.” She turned and walked away.

“That ended better than I thought it would,” Keith said.

“Well, I was kinda worried there for a minute,” Sean admitted.  “I’ve known Joanne for years, and I don’t want to be on her bad side. “

“So did you kids have a good time today?” Keith asked with a wink. “I hope he didn’t make you pay for lunch.”

Kemara laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t call the museum fun, but the rest of the day was great. And yes, he paid for lunch.”

Sean looked wounded. “Dad, I can’t believe you think I’d be so rude!”

“Huh. I’ve known you for 35 years, my boy. It has to be important for you to spend money on it.”

“Hey, Sean!” A group of new arrivals waved at them from across the room.

Sean sighed. “Be right back.”

When he was out of earshot, Keith glanced at Kemara. “So it went well?”

She blushed. “Very well. He took me to a Southern restaurant and declared his undying devotion.”

Keith laughed. “I see he’s carrying on the family tradition! I did the same when I started dating his mother. We went to a movie and then out for Italian. By then, I knew she was the one for me, and I pretty much came out and told her so.  He chuckled. “The kids learned that pasta for dinner meant they were to make themselves scarce.”

Thursday, May 22

Paddy Ryan’s bar was overflowing with those who wanted to get a head start on the long, holiday weekend. Kemara and Sean finished their two-hand and pushed through the crowd to an empty table. They had just sat down when Elaine made her way over to them.

“That was great! If I didn’t know better I’d say there’s something going on between you too,” she teased.

Sean grinned. “What gave us away?”

Elaine looked surprised. “Really? That’s wonderful!” She hugged them both.

“Is it that obvious?” Kemara asked, blushing. She wondered if she had a sign on her forehead telling the world she and Sean were officially dating.

“No, dear,” Elaine hurried to reassure her. “But I’ve known Sean for a long time, and I’ve seen you at least three times a week for more than a year now. I can see it in your dancing….an awareness of each other that you didn’t have before.”

Kemara sighed. “So it’s a good thing?”

“Very good!” Elaine said. “In fact, I have some choreography ideas….” She trailed off already lost in thought. Then someone called her name, and with a wave, she left them.

“Lord help us if she’s got ‘ideas,’” Sean said.

“Why am I suddenly envisioning scenes from ‘Dirty Dancing’?” Kemara wondered.

“Ooohhh….Can you do that jump thing?” His eager smile wilted under her stare. “Uh, no?”


“Lemme get our drinks. Be right back.”

He returned from the bar with a beer for himself and hard cider for her. They drank in silence for a few minutes.

“So, do you have plans for the weekend?” Kemara didn’t want to think about Elaine’s observation right now. Not with Sean watching her over the rim of his glass. Violeta was right…he did have beautiful eyes.

“Nope. Everyone’s on vacation: Ciara, Brad and the kids went to the beach, and Mom and Dad leave tomorrow. They rented a cabin in the woods upstate for a ‘romantic getaway’.” He made air quotes around the words, smirking. “Why? Got something in mind?”

“Yeah. A bunch of us - I think you’ve met everyone - are going over to the veteran’s hospital early Saturday afternoon and then to JenniAnn and Andrew’s house for a cookout. Do you want to come?”

He looked pleased. “Sure! Should I bring food? Or are we going straight there after the veteran’s thing?”

She shook her head. “No, we’ll be done there around noon. We’ll probably scatter for a while after that so whoever wants to bring food can go get it. We’ll meet back up somewhere and go on together.”

“OK. Where do JenniAnn and Andrew live, anyway?”

She smiled. “You’ll see.”

“Fine, be mysterious.”

Saturday, May 24

The Dyelanders and their friends met at the rehab wing of the veteran’s hospital about 10 o’clock. Together, they made their way to the recreation room where rows of chairs had been set up in front of a lectern for the brief ceremony.

After hearing Kylie sing during the visits by the JCS cast, the soldiers had requested that she perform, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Clay, standing at attention between Andrew and Max beamed with pride when she received an enthusiastic round of applause.

A prayer and short address by the hospital's chaplain followed, and the ceremony concluded with a reading of “In Flanders Field” by a frail veteran of World War II. His cracked and wavering voice brought everyone to tears.

The chairs were quickly cleared away and tables set out and filled with the treats the visitors had brought. In the middle of the food was a huge basket of letters and cards from the Tunnel children, Shane and Diana’s students and Zeke’s youth group.

Emma nudged Diana. “Look. They’re forgetting to eat.” It was true. The soldiers ignored their plates of sweets in favor of the brightly decorated cards and scrawled drawings. They passed them from hand to hand, laughing and exclaiming.

“That was a wonderful idea, Shane had.” Diana agreed. “The kids loved making the cards. I should get some pictures to show them how much their gift was appreciated.”

“Oh, my camera’s in my purse; I almost forgot about it! I’ll take some for you.” Kemara hurried over to her where shoulder bag sat in a corner and retrieved the camera. “I can print them out this afternoon, so you’ll have them on Tuesday.”

She moved around the room, taking candid and group photos, including one of Andrew, Adam, Max and Clay flanked by an American flag. Sean introduced her to the WWII vet who entertained them for almost an hour with hair-raising stories of kamikaze pilots and battles at sea.

As it grew close to noon, the party wound down. The visitors helped clean up and gathered their now-empty trays.

JenniAnn held back Kemara to walk with her as they headed for the parking lot. “You haven’t told Sean yet?”

“No….I just - I figured there’s really no way to prepare someone for it. It’s still a shock even if you’ve been told.”

“That’s true. We’ll have everyone else go through at St. Genesius, but if you want to take him through in the alley, you can.”

Kemara thought for a minute. “I think if you go through right before we get there, that would work. Text me and let me know. I - I’m kinda worried how he’ll react….if he’ll think I’ve lied to him about where I live and all.”

“He’ll be surprised, sure. But I think he’ll understand why you had to keep it quiet.”


“Where are the others?”

They arrived back at St. Genesius to find the parking lot full of cars. Sean had retrieved his food for the cookout from the office refrigerator, and now looked around the empty theater.

“They’ve already gone.” Kemara headed backstage, and he followed.

“Gone where? The cars are still here.”

They were standing at the door to the blue room now. She turned to face him. “You’re just going to have to trust me for the next few minutes, OK?”

He took a deep breath and nodded. "OK."

She led him into the room and took Joshua's wooden coin from her pocket. "Did you ever read 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' when you were a kid?"

"Sure. I wanted a sword and shield like Peter's. I was so upset when my dad told me soldiers don't use them any more," he smiled at the memory.

"Well, this is kinda like the wardrobe," Kemara said and set the coin against the back wall which began to shimmer.

"What the - " Sean took an involuntary step back, but Kemara grabbed his hand.

"You can walk through it." She tugged on his hand and together they stepped forward.

Sean stared around him at the unfamiliar landscape with a purple castle in the middle. "I must be dreaming."

Kemara grinned. "Nope. Welcome to Dyeland - also known as Asteri. JenniAnn can tell you more if you’re interested. Let me text her that we made it, and I'll give you a tour."

She took out her phone and messaged JenniAnn. "We're here. He's OK, I think. Going to walk around a bit."

A second later, the reply came: "Yay! Take your time.”

“Um….Why don’t we go put your food in the fridge? Then we can walk over to my place. I need to print out the photos I took for Diana’s students.”

He looked surprised. “You live here? I thought you had an apartment on 16th!”

She blushed. “Well, there is another portal near there, but it’s in an alley so we don’t really use it much. The theater one is new since the show wrapped.”

In the Willowveil kitchen, Kemara rearranged things in the refrigerator to fit the two covered dishes Sean had been carrying. “What did you bring? I forgot to ask.”

“Scotch eggs and a zucchini tart.”

She stared at him. “You can cook?”

“Of course! Both my parents worked, so I had to learn how if I wanted to eat.” He grinned. “Mom’s a good cook, and dad can when he has too…he makes great spaghetti.”

She shot him a glance. “Yes. He told me about pasta nights.”

“Really? Wow...he must like you. That’s kinda an unspoken secret in our family.”

“Aww...Well, I’m flattered he let me in on it then.”

They left the castle, waving to Arthur, Peter, Zeke and Andrew who were setting up two grills in the yard.

“So what other things have you been hiding?” Sean asked as they made their way past the hedge maze toward Monica’s cafe and the blue glint of water on the horizon.

She glanced at him, “You’re not angry that I didn’t tell you before today?”

He shook his head. “Heck, no! Why should I be? You had some pretty good reasons to wait until you were sure you could trust me. If the TV news ever found out about this place….”

“Yeah, but it’s not just Dyeland….”

He looked slightly alarmed at that. “What do you mean?”

“Well….” Kemara took a deep breath and prayed for courage. “Andrew, Monica, Violeta and some of the others...they’re all angels. Real angels...from Heaven.”

She gave him an abbreviated history of Dyeland, starting with Andrew and JenniAnn’s first meeting in the Fields of Gold and ending with the JCS production.

By the time they reached her beach house, Sean looked a little less stunned. Warren met them at the door chattering excitedly as he always did when his human returned.

“Hey, Warren!” She picked the kitten up and perched him on her shoulder. “Have you been cussin’ out the sea gulls again?”

Sean reached out a hand, and the little Siamese sniffed it curiously. “Warren? That’s an interesting name for a cat.”

Kemara shrugged which made Warren dig in his claws to hang on. “Ow! Well, when Joshua gave him to me I just thought he looked like a Warren, I guess.” She gestured around the living room. “Make yourself at home. It’ll just take a few minutes to print these.”

While she worked, Sean examined the overflowing bookcase and a couple of photo albums that lay on the coffee table.

“Your Ireland photos?” He asked picking up the top one.

“Yeah, and some dance pics.” She carried Warren over to him. “Can you keep hold of this rascal? If I’m on the computer he keeps trying to lie on the keyboard.”

He pulled the kitten down beside him on the couch. “How old were you here?”

She leaned over to look, “Oh, that was my first competition, so I was about 21, I guess.”

“That’s the one you told us about at the St. Pat’s party?” He studied the picture of her in a blue dress embroidered with dragons, her hair in curls.

“Yeah, I still have the dress somewhere.” The printer beeped, and she turned away to load more paper.

He flipped through several pages and stopping on a photo of Kemara in a pub with her arm around a slightly older, dark-haired man. Both of them were grinning like idiots.

“Who’s this?” He tried to keep the suspicion out of his voice, but knew it showed. She had that look she got when she danced….like it was the best drug in the world.

She smiled a little wistfully. “I don’t know his name. There was a concert in this pub we’d wandered into...some local trad band. My friends were a more than a bit drunk and started yelling for me to dance.” She shrugged. “We were right up front; what else could I do?”

Sean laughed. “Like they had to twist your arm!”

“Never! Anyway as soon as I started, this guy sitting at the bar jumped up and joined in. It turns out he was from Oregon! We took a few pics with the band, and I never heard from him again.”

She gave him a sly glance as she put Diana’s photos in an envelope. “Not jealous, are you?’

“Of course not! So can we take Warren with us to the party? There’s nowhere for him to go, right?” He stood up and the kitten mewed in protest.

“No, he’d be okay; but he chases the sea gulls, and they’re bigger than he is.” She set the kitten on the windowsill. “Sorry little guy. You’ll have to grow some more before you can hold your own.”

They went back out and stood on the porch for a minute watching the tide come in. “Let’s walk on the beach before we go meet the others.”

They left their shoes at the bottom of the steps, sinking ankle-deep into the white sand.

“So….are you OK with all this?” she asked as they splashed through the surf.

He shook his head. “I just can’t believe that Andrew and the rest are angels!” He gestured. “I don’t know why, but the existence of this place makes more sense. I mean...I know angels are real. But I thought they were all spirit with no bodies. Or if they do come to earth they’re otherworldly looking with flaming swords.”

He turned to her suddenly struck by a thought. “Does Andrew have a flaming sword?”

“Not that he’ll admit to.”

Sean groaned. “See? I don’t know how you can make jokes about….about angels and God. Next thing, you’ll be telling me that Joshua really is Jesus Christ and the reason he’s not here is because he ascended back into Heaven!”

Kemara hesitated, not sure if she should answer or how. “Well, actually….”

They walked on a few more steps, and he stopped dead. She looked over in alarm and saw he had gone very pale, the freckles stark across his nose. “Really?”

She nodded, and he sank down onto the sand, forehead resting on his drawn-up knees, hiding his face from her.

She knelt behind him, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It was Joshua who told me not to be afraid to get to know you better. And he suggested you come with us out to the farm that day.”

“What do I do now?” His voice was muffled and lost.

Joshua, help me, she prayed. I don’t know what to say. Then, tell him that, the small voice answered.

“I don’t know.” She stroked his back lightly and felt him trembling as though with a chill. “We all found out, eventually - everyone in the cast and a few others. But he said it had to happen in our own time. I guess this was yours.”

Sean raised his head, his face wet with tears. “But why now? After he’s gone?”

“He said he would come back to visit sometimes. So you could talk to him then. Well, you can talk to him now…but like that, I mean.”

He drew her down beside him, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Tell me about him. I want to know everything. How did you find out?”

With laughter and tears she told him how she had overheard Joshua and JenniAnn talking about how Joshua had arranged his own parents’ marriage; her flight to the church; how Joshua had followed her and his words of healing reassurance.

“Amazing…” He sighed.

They sat quietly for a few minutes before Kemara stirred. “We’d better get going or JenniAnn will send out a search party. Let’s go to Willowveil - the castle. I’ll show you Joshua’s room.”

“He has a room here?” Sean got to his feet and reached down to help her up.

“Yeah, he stayed for a week after the show closed.” Kemara noticed that Sean had not yet let go of her hand. “So we keep it dusted to be ready for him when he comes back. And it’s nice to just go up there - it’s on the third floor with a balcony - and sit sometimes.”

JenniAnn met them as they came up the path. “Welcome to Dyeland!” she told Sean. “Kinda overwhelming, isn’t it?”

Sean nodded. “Yeah, it is, and really amazing.”

“He knows about Joshua,” Kemara told her friend.

“Really?” JenniAnn looked surprised. At the sound of Joshua’s name, Belle cooed and squirmed in her blanket. “Yes, you know Joshua is. Don’t you, sweet girl?”

“Kemara told me about the angels and - Wait. You and Andrew are…””

“Soul mates,” JenniAnn said promptly, grinning. “And yes, Joshua approves.”

Sean still looked doubtful. “Anyway, I said that if that was true then Joshua must be Jesus.”

“And I couldn’t say ‘no’,” Kemara said. “I want to show him Joshua’s room, and then we’ll help get things ready.”

JenniAnn waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone’s here now, so we have plenty of hands.”

“Many hands make light work,” Sean quoted.

“Yup, that’s our philosophy,” JenniAnn said. “See you in a bit.”

Kemara was on the second flight of the staircase when she realized Sean wasn’t behind her.

“This is cool.”

He had stopped on the landing in front of the wooden tree with its birds and embracing vine. He touched one of the wired-on leaves and smiled when it quivered.

“It’s the Dyeland family tree. Joshua made it as a parting gift to Andrew. There’s a bird for each person who lives here and everyone who was in the show.” She pointed out the nest with its three occupants. “This one is Andrew, JenniAnn and Belle.”

“Where’s yours?”

She found one bird near the bottom and handed it to him. Its head was cocked slightly to one side, wings held close to the compact body. The wood was pale yellow, nearly white, with rust colored streaks.

He turned it over admiring the minute detail of the feathers which had been carved to take advantage natural patterns in the wood. “What is it?”

“I don’t know.” She replaced on the branch. “Oh, I’m sure it’s a real bird of some sort, but Joshua didn’t leave a list. I don’t recognize the wood either. When my dad built furniture, he used rare wood sometimes, but I’ve never seen this one.”

They climbed to the third floor. As Kemara had said, Joshua’s room was peaceful, but still felt lived in, as though the occupant would return any minute. Kemara stepped onto the balcony while Sean wandered around the room.


She stuck her head back in. “Uh-huh?”

Sean was staring at an oddly-shaped package that lay on the bed. “Did you put this here?”

She came over and saw that the object was cylindrical and wrapped in parchment paper. Sean’s name was written across it in a familiar hand. “No. I- I think Joshua did. That’s his handwriting.”

Sean reached out and picked up the parcel. He unfastened the paper to reveal a large bodhran. The rim was made of gleaming rosewood carved in a continuous knotwork design. The goatskin drum head was decorated with a hand-painted celtic cross in shades of blue, green and purple - the colors so vibrant they almost seemed three-dimensional.

“A note fell out.” Kemara handed him another folded sheet of parchment. Standing close together they read:

I’m so glad you know! The next time I visit we’ll sit down and have a long talk. I promise. I didn’t want you to wait for your gift, though. Do you remember when you were 4 years old? You found your dad’s bodhran and told him you were an Indian war chief. I think you lugged it around for two weeks straight! The next summer Keith bought you your own in Ireland. This one is tunable and has a higher voice than you may be used to. I think you’ll like it. I look forward to playing with you in person.
All my love,

Sean laughed and wiped away a tear. “I remember that little bodhran. It had a dragon on it and I loved it. I’ll have to see if mom and dad know what happened to it.”

“Yeah.” Kemara busied herself rearranging a vase of pink roses on the dresser. “It sounds like something you’d might want to pass along one day.”

He smiled. “That’d be nice.”

“Well, it smells like the burgers are ready. Let’s go eat.

In the yard, Violeta came up to them. “Oh, you brought your bodhran! It’s so pretty!”

Sean turned the drum in his hands. “Actually, I found it in Joshua’s room. He left it as a gift.”

Violeta’s eyes went wide and she looked at Kemara. When the woman nodded, Violeta threw her arms around Sean. “That’s awesome! Let’s go tell Andrew!” She took his hand and began leading him away.

Sean thrust the bodhran at Kemara who giggled at the look of panic on his face. “Have fun!” she said with a little wave.

Over the next couple of hours she caught glimpses of him deep in conversation with several different people.

“Sean seems to be making himself at home,” Arthur commented as he and Monica came over to where Kemara and JenniAnn were setting out the desserts.

Kemara shook her head. “I guess it’s true about opposites being attracted to each other, ‘cause he’s so much more outgoing than I am. We went to a concert the other night, and he had to drag me kicking and screaming.” She shrugged. “It was fun, but too crowded for me. I got him to promise we’ll visit to the botanical gardens sometime soon.”

“What’s going on there?” Arthur asked, as Sean approached Andrew.

“Five bucks says he’s asking Andrew if he has a flaming sword,” Kemara said.

JenniAnn shook her head. “Ha! Good luck getting a straight answer. I’ve been trying for years. No, see? Andrew’s shaking his head. He won’t tell.”

“Monica, you’re going to be next,” Kemara warned.

The Irish angel smiled. “I’m not worried.”

Sean turned to Eli who was standing nearby and asked him something. Eli laughed and raised both hands as if fending off the question.

“He’s heading this way.”

“So Monica, I’ve just been talking to Andrew and he wouldn’t tell me anything. But I bet you don’t have a flaming sword.”

"Actually, I do. It has knotwork on the blade and emeralds in the hilt."

Arthur stared at her. “You never told me that!”

Monica smiled serenely. “You never asked.”

Arthur and Sean looked at each other and then back at Monica. “Prove it,” they said in unison.

Expecting to be told it was all a joke, Sean was surprised when Monica reached into the pocket of her skirt and drew something out which she handed to him.

Kemara crowded close, and they looked down at the object on his palm. It was a sterling silver sword about three inches long with emerald chips studded along the golden hilt and a tracery of knotwork up the center.

“Look! It really is a flaming sword!” Kemara pointed to a delicate engraved pattern of flames on the edges of the blade.

Sean turned it over with a careful finger, and they saw that it was a pin. “Very pretty.” He tried to give it back to Monica, but she stopped him.

“Keep it. A gift from Joshua.”

“Wow!” Sean looked up. “Thanks!”

Monica smiled. “He says you’re very welcome.”

“It’ll look great on your jacket when we do performances!” Kemara said taking it from him to admire the craftsmanship.

“Speaking of gifts,” Arthur said. “Kemara told us Joshua gave you a bodhran. You try it out yet?”

“Not yet. I left it on the porch.” They followed as he retrieved the drum.

“Oh, how lovely!” Monica traced the design with a careful finger. “It looks like the paint’s still wet.”

Sean removed the tipper from the grooves that held it in place on one of the crosspieces, and tried a few different beats, getting the feel for the sound.
He tapped out a reel, adding extra flourishes as he went along.

“That looks like fun,” Monica sighed clapping lightly as he finished.

Sean offered her the instrument. “You’re welcome to try.”

“Oh, I’m not good with music,” she protested. “I can’t sing, and -.”

“But you can dance,” Arthur pointed out. “And I think your singing is fine.”

She smiled and patted his cheek, “Ah, you’re sweet to say so.”

“And you play the harp, right?” JenniAnn said.

Sean looked surprised. “Wow. The harp isn’t easy to play. But I guess if you have an eternity to learn….”

Kemara giggled. “Kinda feeds into the stereotype of angels sitting around in Heaven playing harps, though.”

“Well, not just harps,” said Adam who had wandered over with Andrew. “Guitar, drums, piano, flute...Pretty much any instrument you can think name.

“Speaking of,” He turned to Andrew. “We should get the band together one of these days. Maybe expand it now that we know about all this other musical talent.”

Sean turned back to Monica. “Sure you don’t want to try it?”

“Well….” She let him show her how to hold the drum and strike with the tipper.

“It’s all in the wrist.”

Kemara shook her head. “I think I’d get carpal tunnel in no time!”

After some coaching, Monica was able to play a simple jig rhythm.

“Nice!” Sean encouraged. “A strong, regular beat is all you need most of the time, and you’ve got that down.”

As the afternoon grew later, people began to say their goodbyes and trickle back through the portal. The Wilsons left first, pleading an early church service, followed by Clay and Kylie.

“I hate to go,” Sean said as they packed up his empty dishes. “This has been such an awesome day.” He gave Kemara the bodhran. “Can you carry that?”

“Glad you had fun.” She walked with him over to the gazebo. “I’m so relieved I could finally let you in on the big secret.”

He grinned. “I can’t say I’m completely recovered from that...might take a while.” He took her hand. “Come back with me?”


They climbed the steps, and Kemara set her coin against the post. A second later, they stepped through into the blue room.

Sean ran his hand over the now non-shimmering wall. “Amazing.”

“It took me a while to get use to it, too,” she assured him.

They were silent on the walk to the parking lot. When they reached Sean’s truck, he set the dishes and the bodhran carefully in the floorboard.

He opened the driver’s door and turned to her. “ tomorrow?”

“Sure. Yours or mine?” She knew he usually went to Our Lady of Good Counsel on East 90th or his parents’ church in Brewster.

He grinned a little sheepishly. “Can we go to yours, and then come back here,” he gestured at the wall, “for lunch?”

She rolled her eyes. “You just want to poke around Dyeland some more!”

“Guilty,” he raised his hands in surrender. “But only if you’re there too.”

“I think that can be arranged.”

They moved in for the kiss at the same time but their  noses collided and Kemara saw stars. “Ow!”

They laughed and drew back, both blushing a little.

“Don’t think it’s broken,” Sean said rubbing the end of his nose. “Let’s try that again.”

This time, their lips made brief contact.

Kemara smiled. “This is going to take some practice.”

“Well, that’s one thing we’re used to doing.” He climbed in the truck. “See you tomorrow.”

“Bye.” She waited until he had driven off before turning back to the theater. Suddenly Joshua’s words at the St. Patrick’s Day party came back to her.

“You never know unless you give him a chance...I think he likes you too.”

She laughed. As usual, Joshua had been right.

Epilogue - March 17, 2015

Kemara stood at the punch table and gazed out over the crowd that filled the Willowveil ballroom. Her friends and family mingled in a happy tangle. She caught a glimpse of her mother deep in conversation with Catherine. Her dad was with Arthur and Andrew in a corner probably discussing some woodworking project they could collaborate on.

She looked down at her wedding band, now fitted snugly together with the matching claddagh engagement ring. Only one thing - or Person - was left to make the day perfect.

"Have you seen him?” Sean had left his parents and come up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on the top of her head.

She sighed and twined her fingers with his. “No. I keep looking. Just a glimpse would be nice. I mean, I know he’s here, but….”

"Maybe he wants to wait until later when we're alone," he whispered playfully in her ear.

She giggled. "Well, that might be awkward."

 "Oh I don't know...he did invent the act after all,” Sean mused. “And if you think about it…”.

She twisted around and put a hand over his mouth. “Let’s not. I’m nervous enough as it is.”

“Hey, we talked about this.” He pulled her hand away and kissed it. “We don’t have to do anything tonight….or tomorrow night either.”

“Kinda hard to do anything tomorrow night since we’ll be on a plane over the Atlantic,” she teased.  “It’s not that I don’t want to. I do. it’s just….” She trailed off, blushing. “I guess fear of the unknown.”

He kissed her lips this time. “I know. And believe it or not, I’m a little scared myself. It’s a lot of changes all at once… marriage, living together. But we’ll work it out.”

She smiled and relaxed into his embrace. “That’s why I love you: You’re so positive, and I”m the worrier.”

He snorted. “And here I thought you married me for my good looks and witty conversation!”

“Well, that too. But I can’t have one without the others, can I?”

Sean was scanning the room. “What say we get on out of here? Go walk on the beach?”

“I’d love to, but I don’t really want to make a scene,” she wrinkled her nose. “Everybody clapping and throwing rice.”

He released her. “I’ll handle it. Liam!” He motioned the boy over and whispered to him. Liam nodded and slipped back through the crowd.

“What’re you planning?” Kemara asked, amused.

“Just wait a -” He broke off at a resounding crash from the other side of the ballroom. People broke off their conversations and hurried to see what had happened.

“Come on!” Sean grabbed Kemara’s hand. They raced out a side door and down the path, giggling.

JenniAnn glanced up from where she was gathering the - thankfully empty and unbreakable - plates Liam had scattered during his diversion, and caught sight of the couple through one of the huge windows. She smiled.

“God bless.”

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