Shifting Focus

Sunday, October 4th

Andrew smiled and let out a sigh of contentment as he entered Willowveil Castle.  After a week spent working in a seedy motel, the scent of pumpkin candles mingling with chai tea was a welcome change from stale water and Lysol.  Even the spiders, ghosts, and witches decorating JenniAnn's home were a welcome sight.  But it was JenniAnn herself Andrew was looking for, both to let her know he'd returned and to reclaim Lulu.  He checked the kitchen and the ballroom but found both empty.  It seemed unlikely that JenniAnn would be in either the parlor or the dining room by herself and so the angel proceeded to the TV room.  As he walked, he anticipated coming upon a cozy scene of his friend and their dogs, curled up on the couch, enjoying a TV show or a book. 
Entering the TV room, Andrew's jaw dropped.  Far from passively resting, JenniAnn was dashing around the room, flinging pieces of paper!  Lulu and Fawn were merrily following her, tearing her cast offs to bits.
"Laja!  What is going on?" Andrew demanded, half-worried that the poor girl had finally gone full-blown insane.
JenniAnn stopped in her tracks and stared at Andrew. 
Andrew raised his hands and backed away... she looked angry.  Tess-style angry.  "You know, I'm just going to go back to my place and give you a few minutes.  Unless you want to talk.  Do you?"
JenniAnn nodded.  She looked around the room and blushed.  Her face grew even more pink when she caught sight of herself in a mirror.  Her hair was flying every which way with bits of paper adhering to it and her clothes.  "I'm a mess!!!" she sobbed and collapsed on the couch, dissolving into tears.
Andrew quickly took a seat beside her and squeezed her shoulder.  "You're not a mess.  This room... well, this room is a mess but you're not.  You just look... frazzled."  He pulled a brightly colored scrap of paper from her hair and looked at it curiously.  "Tell me what's going on."
JenniAnn nodded, drew in a deep breath, and took the Kleenex Andrew was holding out to her.  "Hallmark is taking TBAA off their schedule!!!  Now how am I gonna get my Andrew fix when you're gone!?!?!  I mean fake Andrew's no you, no offense to Mr. Dye, but he's something!" 
Andrew did his best to stifle a laugh.  It wasn't exactly the tragedy he'd been concerned might have befallen her in his absence.  "Well, that... that's definitely unfortunate.  Do you know why?"
"For a bunch of 'I Love Lucy'!!!  I mean who wants to spend four hours watching some band dealer cope with an over-dramatic, neurotic wife!?!?!" 
Andrew couldn't control himself any longer and a chuckle escaped.  JenniAnn glared at him and he immediately sobered.  "You're right.  Sorry.  Although I do happen to think a person could do worse than spending time with a guy from a band and a maybe slightly dramatic, eccentric but very sweet lady... wife or not." 
JenniAnn couldn't stop from giggling at Andrew's devilish grin.  "Point taken.  So maybe I'm acting a bit Lucyish...  B-but... I wanted to finish watching the rest of TBAA!  I mean, sure, maybe it's not so important when you're around but when you're not... I dunno.  It's reassuring... ya know, except for the finale... you fading away... and... and..."
"Not gonna fade away," Andrew vowed for what he knew had to be at least the two hundredth time.
"Good."  JenniAnn drew in a deep breath.  "Anyhow, with out the DVDs this seemed the only way..."
"I know.  It is sad and hopefully they'll add it back to the schedule.  But maybe look at it from another angle.  Don't you think it might be nice to, you know, get a break from yours truly?  I mean I *can* be annoying sometimes.  I wrinkle my nose like a toddler when I don't like something."  Andrew demonstrated to prove his point.
"But that's cute!" JenniAnn protested.
"I whine sometimes."
"Shows character!"
"I start fiddling with straws, my hair, a football, etc. as some sort of nervous/bored tick."
JenniAnn sighed.  "I love that... although I'm not sure why."
Andrew shook his head, laughing.  "Okay... even with that being the case... I strongly believe you can go a few days without any trace of me."
JenniAnn looked at him, doubtful.  "You have met me, right?  I mean I'm pretty obsessive.  If the Lifetime movie producers found out about us then next season we'd all be seeing 'Angel Stalker: The JenniAnn Chandler Story.'  Maybe I'd be played by Tori Spelling."  She grimaced but then her face lit up.  "I wonder if they'd get Mr. Dye to play you?  Ooh, do you think he would?"
Andrew briefly considered her question.  "I'm going to guess no.  And I, for one, wouldn't be happy to see that movie made.  They'd make you look terrible.  And the music would be cheesy.  And it would be followed by a Danielle Steele mini-series."
It was JenniAnn's turn to raise her eye brows.  "Have you been watching Lifetime?"
Andrew shrugged.  "The remote broke.  But back to the main point of this conversation.  Here's what I don't understand: what does your being upset with Hallmark have to do with our dogs pouncing on pieces of paper that I saw you flinging around?"
"They're Hallmark cards.  I'm protesting."
"Cards people gave you?" Andrew questioned, shocked.
"No!  You know I keep those forever!"
"So then... you went out, bought Hallmark cards, and then destroyed the cards with only our dogs for an audience?"
JenniAnn pounded her fist on the couch.  "I totally just rewarded them with money for being bad programmers!"
"I'm afraid so."  Andrew laughed gently and hugged her.  "Poor, Laja.  At least it entertained the dogs."  He waved to the mutt and basset hound who were rolling around in the shredded cards.  "And I am sorry about the show."
JenniAnn sighed.  "Thanks, me too.  I guess part of it is... I dunno.  Watching them just kinda brings back memories of who I was then.  And even who you were.  And your history before I knew you or some of it, anyhow.  Ya know, it was during Season 6 that you came here.  The next episode after that was 'True Confessions.'"
"Which one was that?"
"Women's prison.  'Agnes of God.'  I, um, don't really remember much cause you were here when it was on and, well...  I believe I spent most of it just wondering what you were thinking as you watched it.  If it made you sad, happy, entertained, whatever." 
"I remember the assignment.  And I remember being here when the episode was on."  Andrew struggled to recall particulars.  "But I don't really remember how it was depicted.  Maybe I was lost in my own thoughts."
"About the actual assignment?"
"Maybe.  Wait... no."  Andrew smiled as the memories came back.  "I was feeling very, very blessed to be among people who appreciated me and wanted to get to know me... people who weren't afraid of me."  The angel started to laugh.  "And at one point you blurted out something about Andrew being 'super lovely' and then remembered I was there.  That was the first time you teased me about blushing.  Of course, I teased you right back.  You were looking more than a little magenta yourself."
JenniAnn's face lit up.  "I remember that now!  And, for the record, I could never be afraid of you."  She squeezed his hand then frowned.  "But that only makes me more upset about losing the show.  See, it just brought those memories back.  What other memories might come back if only we could see the episodes?"
"Laja, what if they aren't all good memories?  And we can always make new memories," the angel encouraged.
"Yeah..."  JenniAnn smiled appreciatively at him.
Andrew could tell the smile was more than a little forced.  "Okay, what can I do to make this better?  If I can then I'll do it.  I'm going to take Lulu and Fawn outside to give you some time to think, sound good?"
Readily consenting, JenniAnn considered Andrew's offer for several minutes.  Upon returning, he found that the TV room was cleaned and JenniAnn was sitting on the couch, absently spinning her signet ring around her finger. 
Lulu and Fawn were, at first, disappointed by the lack of their paper shreds but quickly seized on the new rope balls JenniAnn had set out as a peace offering.  As the dogs broke in their new toys, she approached Andrew.
"I've thought of what you can do," she began.
"Yes?"  He looked expectantly at her, waiting for whatever amusing idea she might have come up with.  However, it didn't take Andrew more than a moment to realize that JenniAnn was not happy.
The woman blinked a few times and swiped at her eyes.  "Nothing.  You're right.  I need to just spend some time focused on other things.  I'm getting clingy and that's just not respectable in a 27 year old."
Andrew hugged her.  "You know that's not what I meant.  I just wanted to make sure you were spending time on your own interests.  I happen to think you're plenty respectable!"
JenniAnn shrugged.  "Thanks."
"You still seem upset.  Talk to me."
"I'm just tired.  Hormonal.  Whatever.  Fun, fun, fun.  But, really, I'll be fine.  Now Lulu deserves some alone time with you.  She's missed you.  So you two should head home and then maybe I'll see you at the Cafe for dinner."
Andrew crossed his arms over his chest.  "Laja..."
"I'm fine!  Really.  It all seems goofy and not that big of a deal now."  JenniAnn drew in a deep breath, tossed her hair, and beamed at the angel.  "I'll just spend that time knitting or scrap booking or something.  I'll be constructive.  It'll be awesome.  But first maybe I'll just take a nap.  Improve my mood."
"If you're sure..."
"Very."  She hugged Andrew then walked with him to the door.  On the porch they and the dogs said their good byes as JenniAnn inwardly swooned over the sight of Andrew backed by the vibrant fall leaves.
Andrew looked back one last time before his friend shut the door.  Catching a wistful look on JenniAnn's face, he knew she was still troubled by their lost link to the past... if not more.  As he walked through the yards, a plot began to form...
Later that week...
Andrew had been gone for 4 days, 13 hours, 20 minutes, and 45 seconds.  Or so JenniAnn guessed.  She had, in that time, attempted to break away from all things Andrew-related.  And she was miserable. 
A sudden noise caught her attention: a thud from the entryway.  Moving into the hall, she saw a CD case lying on the floor beneath her mail slot.  JenniAnn looked out the window but saw no one.  Directing her attention to the case, she noticed it contained a DVD that was unlabeled.  Her curiosity struck, she ran to the TV room and began to play the disk.  Her face lit up when Andrew appeared on screen.
For an hour she listened, enchanted, as Andrew related the events that had become "The Sign of the Dove."  She laughed as, after he finished, he held up a series of cue cards meant to stand in for the credits and hummed the Touched theme song.  Once he'd held up "The End," JenniAnn assumed that the video would revert to the menu screen and prepared to call friends to share the news.  Instead, she was pleasantly surprised when Andrew reappeared.
"Hi there, Laja, and whomever else may be watching.  When I learned how upset JenniAnn was about some of the Touched episodes being lost, I decided I'd do something to preserve at least a part of them.  I'm afraid you're stuck with just me going from my memory of the actual cases.  I know it's not the same and I know it's not part of your pasts and your memories the way those episodes were, but I thought it might help.  I hope it does."
JenniAnn was touched by Andrew's thoughtfulness.  Tears formed in her eyes and she was just about to call him and thank him when the screen flickered and showed only white light.  Gradually the brightness subsided and JenniAnn could make out Andrew's form again.  She almost fell out of her chair.  The angel of death was standing on a large boulder, dressed from fedora to boot like Indiana Jones!
"This is freaking awesome!" an off-camera voice practically shrieked.
JenniAnn giggled, immediately recognizing Logan as Andrew's apparent accomplice in whatever it was she was viewing.
"I think so.  I don't see any reason I need to stick with the assignments Touched got to, do you?  But are you sure this isn't weird?  I feel like I might just be encouraging her to, you know... keep focusing so much on me.  Maybe she meant it about focusing on other things... maybe another, umm, person... guy..."  Andrew tilted his head, considering the possibility.  And then he made a series of slight facial movements...
Heart pounding, JenniAnn hit the rewind button.  Then she did it again.  Studying him.  Seven times total.  It was definitely there!  She saw it!
"Blah, blah, blah.  I highly doubt it, man," Logan assured once JenniAnn finally let the video progress.  "Hey, can I try that hat on after you're done?"
"Uh oh," a voice not on the TV but actually in the room muttered.
JenniAnn spun around to find Andrew standing in the entryway.  She hit pause.
"He said he'd edit that part out!" the angel cried.  "We weren't done with that one!  I wouldn't have dropped the disk in your mailbox if I'd known it wasn't edited!"
JenniAnn grinned.  "Greetings, Professor Jones."  She hugged him.  "You're awesome.  And this is way better than reruns on Hallmark."
Andrew smiled with relief when he realized she wasn't upset about him seeking counsel from Logan.  "I'm glad you think so." 
"Andrew..."  Dewy-eyed, JenniAnn beamed at him.
"That would be me," he responded, the characteristic eye brow raising as he took in his friend's enchanted expression.
"You wrinkled your nose," she murmured.
JenniAnn rewound the DVD.  "You told Logan you weren't sure about the idea... that you thought you were encouraging me.  And then you said maybe I meant it about focusing on other things or... or another guy."
Andrew shuffled awkwardly.  "Well, I mean... I thought maybe that was what you meant with all the respectable talk..."
"Only because I thought you wanted me to shift focus!  But you wrinkled your nose!"
"I believe you.  Maybe I did wrinkle my nose but why do you keep mentioning it?"  Andrew was thoroughly confused.  He'd seen JenniAnn go into fits of giggles or smile swoonily over some little, inconsequential thing he did but this was different.
"You wrinkle your nose like a toddler when you don't like something!  You said it yourself!"  JenniAnn gestured to the TV, hitting the Play button.
"Maybe she meant it about focusing on other things... maybe another, umm, person... guy..."
Andrew watched as the cause of his friend's glee unfolded.  On screen, his eyes squinted slightly.  The corners of his mouth turned down.  His nose wrinkled... because he didn't like what he'd said.
JenniAnn sighed contentedly.  "You don't secretly hope I'll meet someone and date them and get married and all that!"
"I never said I did!" the angel protested, staring at his recorded self and feeling slightly betrayed by him.
"I know.  But you never said you didn't.  And I always kinda thought you felt it... and maybe that you were kinda hinting at it when I freaked out over Hallmark and you suggested I use the opportunity to focus on other things and take a break from you."  JenniAnn frowned.  "I thought maybe you wanted that.  Just that you wouldn't say it outright cause you didn't want to influence my decisions."
"Because I don't, Laja.  Free will is a pretty big deal where I come from, as you know."  Andrew smiled slightly.
"I do know and thank God for that gift.  But I know my will.  And I guess it's just nice to think your will isn't, well, willing against my will.  I mean... I've made my decision and I'd just really like to think someone else liked that decision.  And it... it was miserable to think maybe you, of all the people the one whose opinion matters most in this, didn't."  JenniAnn wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

"Laja..." Andrew reached for her hand.  "I truly didn't mean..."

"I know now... thanks to your very sweet DVD and its accidental 'easter egg'... I know the truth.  Even if you couldn't say it."  JenniAnn smiled once more at the recorded Andrew then turned to the real one.  She could tell the angel of death was still troubled by her realization.  "And that makes me very happy,"  she assured as she hugged him.  "Don't think it doesn't.  I'm not that great of a liar.  So you know I totally mean what I say."
Andrew chuckled and returned her hug.  "I believe you.  And since hearing the words can be important...  I meant the nose wrinkle."
"Good."  Beaming again, JenniAnn stepped away and stopped the DVD.  "Ya know, I think I can live with this way of preserving TBAA.  In fact... I think I just might like it better.  And... you were totally right."


"Making new memories, even without the episodes.  Like this one.  I'll miss the shows, the actors' performances, the writing, etc.  And I won't stop hoping Hallmark will air them or the DVDs will come out.  Especially for those who aren't lucky enough to actually know you!  But even if they don't... you're here."

"And very thankful for it.  And I'm even thankful for Logan's absent-minded failure to edit the DVD."  Andrew shook his head, smiling.

"It's an awesome DVD and I love it just the way it is.  I mean you did even better than the real TBAA DVDs!  At least you included an extra, even if ya didn't mean to.  And it's also much nicer than the weight loss commercials Hallmark shoves down the viewers' throats."  JenniAnn wrinkled her own nose. 

Andrew laughed. 

"So will there be other DVD releases?" JenniAnn asked eagerly.

"Oh, I have a feeling there might be a whole boxed set in the future.  You know, just as long as there's enough interest."  Andrew shrugged.  "I guess we'll just have to see about..."  Andrew heard JenniAnn exclaim and then saw her dive for her purse.  "What are you doing?"

JenniAnn pulled her cell phone out and began dialing as she paced.  "Rose!  Get over here!  I have a DVD you totally have to see!  Can you call Yva and tell her?  I'm calling Lady Beth.  No, Andrew's already over here and he totally knows about it.  You just gotta see!"  She shrieked, placed a similar call to Lady Beth, then looked up at Andrew.  "So what were you saying about 'enough interest'?" she asked, grinning.

Andrew laughed.  "Nevermind."

And so it was that the people of Dyeland got to watch something roughly resembling Touched by an Angel and the Hallmark Channel couldn't do anything to stop it.  And I Love Lucy could never, ever take over which is a good thing since we all know Andrew is way cuter than Ricky.  Especially when he wrinkles his nose.  Or dresses like Indiana Jones. 


The End

Author's Note:
This story turned out not like I was expecting.  It was quite odd.  I wrote most of everything before "Later that week..." on the Sunday I grew concerned about the Hallmark schedule in order to cheer myself up.  Monday morning before work I wrote the bit about LJA watching what Andrew had put together.  I ended right with Andrew asking Logan if the situation was weird.  Then I wasn't sure what to do with it and had to leave for work, considering maybe nixing the Indiana Jones part and just ending with Andrew's message.

But then at work I was just moseying over to the color copier, not thinking of anything in particular, when all of a sudden I thought "He wrinkled his nose!  That's the next part!"  And then the scene unfolded in my head from there as I pondered the significance of Andrew wrinkling his nose during that conversation. 

Going into what will be a pretty harrowing story in November, with inklings of it maybe even in the Halloween issue, I guess I wanted to at least start two of the characters off in a really stable, no-drama place.  And, finally with this story, I think that's where Andrew and LJA are.  Plus, I've concluded I really don't want to turn Andrew's and LJA's friendship/one-sided attachment into some asexual version of Beauty and the Beast with her continuously crying "I love you!" and Andrew going on ad nauseum about how she could live a fuller life with someone else.  I love Vincent but sometimes I just wanna shake him.  And I don't wanna have to shake Andrew...  So LJA will not be shifting focus nor miserably suspecting Andrew wants her to.  I, however, will be shifting focus.  I'm sure I can find plenty of things to angst out over but Andrew and LJA being on two entirely different pages re: her being in love with him will no longer be one.

And now the extremely happy update: As of this writing (the morning of October 11th, 2009), TBAA is back on Hallmark's schedule!  It seems it was only removed for the Halloween holiday.  So... I guess I learned a lesson about not freaking out prematurely!  On the plus side, I'm glad I wrote this and if Hallmark ever does remove TBAA (as they have in the past hence my being so quick to believe they had again) then I can reread this and maybe calm down.

Back to the Author's Cut

(Photo Credits: The photograph used on this page is from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  It is not being used to seek profit.)