"Then you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.” --John 8: 32, NIV
A large crowd had gathered at Willowveil Castle for
Thanksgiving dinner. By 10:00 PM the pumpkin pie and
other desserts had been devoured, leftovers packed up and
divvied out, and most of the guests had retired to their own
homes. However, a handful were not quite ready to call
it a night and had moved to the parlor for coffee and a
game. Wooed by memories of a cozy... if somewhat
combative... Thanksgiving with Monica and Tess, Adam had
tossed several thought-provoking questions into a
bowl. One by one, each of the players selected a
question and answered. With one round behind them and
all nerves long since settled, the players had begun to
truly enjoy themselves.
Violeta, ever eager to learn more about her friends,
practically skipped to the bowl when her turn came around
again. Unraveling the question, she beamed.
"'What's the best vacation you ever took?' Well, I
loved Alaska but I'm going to have to say Florida because it
was my first vacation and because we saw Hogwarts."
"Way. To. Be!" Max hooted.
Rose sighed dreamily. "Best vacation ever... And
we have to go back sometime with Kemara here now!"
"Yes!" Violeta enthusiastically hugged Kemara who was seated
next to her. "Except don't let me go on the big
"Oh, you don't like them?" Kemara asked.
"Something like that..."
Andrew, seated next to JenniAnn on one of the loveseats,
smiled. He remained incredibly grateful that they'd
had the opportunity to go. "I'm sure we'll go back
sometime but now... Adam's devilish grin is telling me it's
my turn to answer." He stood and approached the
bowl. "Don't think you're fooling me, buddy. I
know you're hoping I get an embarrassing one."
Adam feigned shock. "Me? Play a trick on you,
one of my dearest friends? In fact, I am so kind that
I pre-selected your next question." He held a strip of
paper out to the younger angel of death.
"Oh dear..." Monica murmured, visibly amused.
Sitting beside her on the settee, Arthur could only gape in
amusement. He wondered what angels found embarrassing.
Andrew chuckled as he took the paper from Adam. "Let's
see..." He cocked his head. "Actually, this is a
very nice question. 'If you could go back twenty
years, what would you tell yourself? Wow... 1993."
"I was four," Max chimed in.
"Three," Rose added.
"Not born!" Violeta chirped.
"I feel old..." Tess lamented.
"You are old," Adam shot back with a grin.
"And you aren't?" the supervisor demanded.
"I am vintage," Adam declared majestically.
"Ha!" Tess rolled her eyes but still hugged the angel.
"I like the sound of that but now... Andrew, your answer?"
"Well, I'd tell myself that my life was about to get even
better in ways I couldn't possibly imagine. I mean a
couple years later, I'd start working with Monica and Tess
and then Gloria. And then about four years after that,
I'd come here and... I'd hear a love song about me being
JenniAnn's face flushed but she beamed at the angel.
"And then blessing after blessing would follow. So
many friends, a protege." Andrew smiled tenderly at
Violeta. Then his smile widened into an all out
grin. "And... I'd also tell myself to neglect my top
shirt buttons more often," he continued in a rush, eyes
Monica was the first to burst out laughing.
"Heck to the yeah," JenniAnn merrily encouraged when Andrew
sunk back down beside her.
"Honestly..." Tess continued. Still, even she had to
admit Andrew wore the rakish look very well.
After recovering, Monica looked to Adam. "So why'd you
choose that question for Andrew?"
Following one last chuckle, Adam shrugged. "I really
thought he'd just give some profound, 'awww'-inspiring
answer and what can I say? No one can spend much time
in Dyeland and not develop at least a small sappy streak...
myself included. But that... that was at least two
levels of impressive: sappy and wicked. Rough night
for Tess, though."
"Ol' Tess is doing just fine, thank you very much. And
it happens to be my turn." After claiming her piece of
paper, Tess cleared her throat and read. "'If you
could have any super power which one would you
choose?' The power not to wear one of those silly
suits. Nobody needs to wear clothes that tight."
"Aww, Tess. A real super power," Monica pressed.
"All right... Let's see..." Tess pondered the
question for a few moments then shrugged. "Babies, I
don't pay enough attention to those things..."
"You could be invisible," Max suggested. "Oh wait... I
guess you already have that sometimes."
"No leaping tall buildings in a single bound for you, Tess?"
Tess turned up her nose.
"Well, maybe you could answer not so much with a super power
but a superhero car. Really fast, indestructible,
sleek, impeccable paint job..." the man tantalized.
The supervisor's eyes grew wide. "Car! I'm going
with the car." Her smile stretched across her
face. "I like this boy, Miss Wings!"
Monica's face glowed with pride as Arthur blushed happily.
"Well played, Arthur!" Adam praised. "Owen, you're
from where he sat with Eliot and his new bride, Brittony,
Owen approached the bowl. "And my question
is..." He beamed. "Highly appropriate.
'If you could paint any one thing and know you'd capture
it perfectly, what would it be?'" Thoughtful, the
artist sat back down. "I had this dream once when I
was around sixteen. It was when... when things got
really bad with my parents. It's not like I'm overly
religious but... but I guess I can be sometimes. So
in this dream, I was sitting in a field and I saw this man
walking up a hill. He was far enough away that I
couldn't see his features but somehow I just knew he
was..." He glanced over as JenniAnn, the only person
he'd ever confided in about the dream. She smiled
softly and nodded in encouragement. "Jesus. He
got to the top of the hill and held his arms out and all
these colors... I know it sounds crazy but it was like the
colors were alive and they swirled all around Him and made
everything around Him light up and come to life.
When I woke up, all I wanted to do was capture that image
but I never could. Not perfectly. Because my
colors aren't alive like His. But I can still
remember it. So I'd paint that."
An awed hush fell over the room. Several of the
listeners had seldom heard Owen say much of anything
serious and to hear his account and the depth of emotion
in his voice as he spoke... angel and human alike were
Andrew tucked the story away in his memory, knowing he
might soon need it. Then, seeing the young man begin
to squirm, he broke the silence. "That's beautiful,
Owen. Absolutely beautiful."
JenniAnn moved to hug her friend. "He loves you, O,"
"So I've heard. I think there's a song about it...
or several," he teased. Then he grew serious
again. "It's your turn. Please pick. I,
Knowing he wanted the attention off him, JenniAnn
nodded. "Going now." She closed her eyes,
stuck her hand in the bowl, and chose a question. "'What's
the biggest regret you have?'" she read from the strip of
paper in front of her. "Boy... Umm..."
Eliot, also keen to restore levity for Owen's sake, laughed
when he caught her unintentional gaze his way. "You
can say it. Water under the bridge, Psyche."
Blushing but smiling, JenniAnn nodded. "Okay...
I regret dating Eliot. NOT because he's a bad
fellow. Obviously he's quite a catch. But he's
Brittony's catch and I, for one, am very glad they caught
each other." She lifted her mug to the couple.
"To the newlyweds!"
Cheers and shouts and clanking of mugs and glasses resounded
as the happy couple beamed.
When the din had quieted, JenniAnn continued as she moved
back to the loveseat. Her voice came out softer but
more sure. "I regret that I distanced myself from
Andrew and hurt him."
Andrew took her hand in his. He remembered those days
and was immensely grateful that they were over. He'd
never felt before how much it hurt to have someone you loved
physically present and yet not really there... apart from
you because of their own choice.
"But I learned a lot and... I feel like after that we became
a lot more open with each other so... there's that."
JenniAnn beamed at the angel then hugged his arm and
sighed. "So who's next?"
"Uh me, I guess."
Hearing Arthur's voice, Andrew and JenniAnn both turned to
face the man. In doing so, they noticed Monica, pale
and distracted looking as she sat beside him. Arthur
himself seemed ill-at-ease. He whispered something to
Monica and when she nodded, only then did he rise to select
a piece of paper from the glass bowl sitting on the coffee
Andrew's eye brows rose. He glanced over to JenniAnn
and knew she, too, noticed the change. "Is something
going on with them?" he whispered. "But they were fine
just a minute ago. I saw them clasp hands during
Frowning, JenniAnn shrugged. "Whatever's happened, I
think we need an intermission." She stood up and went
to where the coffee pot and fixings sat on a serving
table. "Actually, Arthur, would you mind waiting for
just a bit? I think we could do with another pot of
"No problem at all. Happy to wait," the man agreed.
"Monica, maybe you could help me in the kitchen?" JenniAnn
Eagerly, Monica nodded and jumped to her feet to follow
their hostess. For a brief moment, she smiled at the
irony. Only a few short years ago, she wouldn't have
dreamed of confiding in JenniAnn. Now she wanted
to. Needed to.
"Are you okay?" JenniAnn asked as soon as they were in the
kitchen and she was sure no one had followed.
The caseworker nodded. "I was just... relieved I
didn't get your question."
Monica forced a smile. "Your response was considerably
more innocent than mine would have been."
Stepping away from the coffee maker, JenniAnn set a hand on
the angel's arm. "Give me 6,000 years and we'll see
what trouble I can get myself into. I mean even as it
is... I almost killed a guy over Andrew. Okay, really
just plotted to temporarily paralyze him with a wooden
stake... but that's not very nice, either. Which
reminds me... I need to call Josef and try to persuade him
to come home for Christmas. Mick and Beth pulled
Andrew and me into their campaign."
Monica smiled, touched by the diversion. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Not that it's not a big deal but...
I'm glad it's only the question at fault. Arthur
seemed out of sorts so I... well, Andrew and I... we were
worried maybe something had happened."
"Ah no but when he... when Arthur heard it, he... he smiled
so sweetly and... and said that he figured if I'd gotten
that question, I wouldn't have been able to make much of an
JenniAnn bit her lip, wondering if she should have cornered
Arthur at some earlier date and tried to dispel a little of
his starriness. But, no... it wouldn't have
mattered. He'd have paid as little heed to her as she
had Tess in the early days when the supervisor had tried to
temper her feelings for Andrew.
The angel continued as she piled more sugar cubes into a
dish. "And I... I shuddered and he noticed and... then
I... I realized..."
JenniAnn frowned. "You realized what?"
"Perhaps I should tell him. I mean... if it were
Andrew... when would you want to know? Or would
you? And would you be angry if you found out long
after he had opportunity to tell you but chose not
to?" Monica sighed. "I know, of course, that
Andrew never would... have done what I did but...
"Hypothetically... I would want to know as soon as Andrew
felt he could tell me because I would be extremely hurt if,
after all our talk of being honest and after all the things
I confided in him about... that... well, that's a pretty big
thing. I mean it's not like I feel his life should be
an open book to me and you deserve privacy with Arthur,
too," JenniAnn clarified. "But... I mean if something
horrible happened to me, I think Andrew would want to
know. And if it was him and I found out through some
other means... I think I would be angry and hurt both.
And I promise I would never say anything about that day to
Arthur but the way I figure it, four of us know about
it. You, me, God, and Satan. I can account for
the goodwill and love of three out of the four but unless
you're sure the latter would never see to it that Arthur was
told..." JenniAnn bowed her head. "Eben once
tried to convince me that Andrew had done something
unforgivable... when really he'd only followed God's
commands and it was humans who did the unforgivable. I
don't think I need to remind you that their side doesn't
need to deal in the truth."
Monica shivered. It was one thing to confront a demon
herself but to consider one coming near Arthur...
JenniAnn refilled Monica's mug and pushed it into her
hand. "I'm sorry."
Gratefully, Monica took a sip. The lump in her throat
subsided. "Please don't be. It's a good thing to
keep in mind. But... you and Andrew, you've known each
other for nearly fourteen years and Arthur and I have only
really known each other for two months. What if...
what if he turns from me when he learns what I did?"
JenniAnn blushed. She'd done exactly that.
However, she was also not in love with Monica as she was
very sure Arthur was. She smiled. "'God never
created anything stronger than the power of real love.'"
Recognizing her own words, the angel laughed. "True."
"Arthur truly cares about you. If you don't tell him,
can you be certain that your own anxiety over keeping that
from him won't create distance? It can really hurt to
think someone you love doesn't trust you. And I know
now that wasn't usually the case with Andrew. I
do. The fact that I wasn't even old enough to drink
for the first few years of our friendship probably
Monica smiled wanly. She could well remember how
reticent Andrew could be... and she was his fellow angel and
6,000 years old. It was a wonder he hadn't driven the
teenaged JenniAnn insane with his protective streak.
"But Arthur is very much an adult." JenniAnn paused to
pray her next words would be utterly moot. "If he does
react badly, the pain of that will only increase the longer
you spend time with him, Monica. But I truly don't
think he will. I mean in the little time that's passed
since you reunited, he's seen you counsel homeless men and
women. He's seen you play with their children,
bringing them joy in times of uncertainty. He's seen
you will babies to live even as the hospital meant to heal
them fell apart. He witnessed you comforting their
parents when the lil ones went Home. He's walked with
you in former neighborhoods riddled with bodies. I
don't think he could every turn his back on the one who
stood by his side through that. I... I know the pull
of bonds formed and strengthened in pain and grief."
Tears welled in Monica's eyes. "You do," she agreed
"So were you thinking... tonight?"
"Not before... but I think I owe some explanation for how I
reacted and I think it should be the truth," Monica
"I do, too. Maybe you could just finish this round and
then excuse yourselves. Are you staying in Dyeland
The caseworker nodded.
"Well then, you can cite the walk back as your reason for
wanting to get going. That bridge over the Gulf gets
downright cold once you get too long into the night. I
trust Arthur's walking you back?" JenniAnn checked.
Monica smiled and nodded. "He offered earlier."
"Good!" JenniAnn hugged the angel. "It'll be
fine. And I'm setting places for both of you tomorrow
Monica tried to soak in the woman's confidence that all
would be well. "I'll... we'll... see you then."
"You will. Both of you. Now... more coffee and
more questions! Arthur's up, remember."
"C'mon." Offering her breeziest smile, JenniAnn
grabbed the coffee pot and headed out.
Monica followed with the sugar and creamer tray.
"And here they are!" Adam cheered as they re-entered the
JenniAnn set the coffee down then returned to Andrew's
side. "He's going to make us do this every year now,
Andrew chuckled. "Yup. Think so."
"And Arthur's question is..." the elder angel of death
Arthur unrolled his question and smiled. "'If you
could relive any day of your life, which would it
be?'" He briefly bowed his head, thanking God.
His gaze settled on Monica. "October 3, 2013."
Returning to her side, he hugged her.
A memory from that terrible day so many years ago returned
to Monica. Lilacs... How much she loved them
though they never lasted long. But oh how beautiful
they were during their brief lives. Even if Arthur
walked away from her that night... something she felt she
deserved... she would always cherish the beauty of what
they'd so briefly shared.
By 11:30, only Andrew and JenniAnn remained in the
parlor. Adam and Tess had gone onto assignments.
The Tunnel contingent had went home. Max, Rose,
Kemara, and Violeta had taken up residence in the theater
room where they were watching Harry Potter yet
again. Monica and Arthur had, as planned, left after
the second round of questions.
"Well, what should we do now that the kids are settled
down?" Andrew asked drowsily, tucking his arm around
JenniAnn's shoulders when they both collapsed onto a couch
after getting everything back in order.
Also tired yet too nervous to sleep, JenniAnn laughed.
"'Kay." The angel closed his eyes and let his head
roll back onto the cushions. He hadn't felt so tired
in a year at least. As tempting as his bed was; the
lingering scent of pumpkin and cinnamon, the comfortable
white noise of Willowveil, and the calming presence of
someone he loved was still more enticing.
"I'm sure you can head back to Serendipity, Andrew, if you
want to go to bed. I'm pretty confident Max can make
the walk through the basement tunnel on his own... after
all, he can find his way here clear from New Jersey,"
JenniAnn gently teased.
JenniAnn sighed as she nuzzled his shoulder. Quite
obviously Andrew didn't want to be alone. So it had
been for much of the month. He'd been gone for the
greater part of it, sometimes not leaving the Philippines
for days at a time. When he returned to Dyeland, he'd
stop at Serendipity to clean up but then make the rounds to
visit his friends. If no one was up and about, he'd
settle in the Willowveil library and that's where JenniAnn
would find him in the morning... coffee already brewed and
his nose in some book or the other. She
understood. She'd felt it herself though never to that
degree. Death had a way of making an empty house the
enemy. It also had a way of wearing the mightiest of
souls down, making them bone-tired. Andrew was
definitely there and yet he'd insisted on a big Thanksgiving
celebration; knowing his fellow AODs, Monica, and Arthur
needed it. But now... maybe now he would rest,
Fighting his sleepiness, Andrew roused. "Laja?"
"Monica's going to tell Arthur tonight, isn't she?
About what happened the day they first met?"
Andrew prayed silently that all would go well, that Monica
would find the strength to tell Arthur what she needed him
to know. Now more than ever they needed each other.
JenniAnn prayed, too. She fervently hoped she hadn't
been wrong to encourage Monica. When she sensed Andrew
was through with his prayer, she peered up at him. If
he wasn't going to lay down and go to sleep, they might as
well talk about the situation. "Andrew, how much do
you think you deserve to know about me?"
"Whatever you want to tell me."
"I know that but... can you just try to be at least somewhat
selfish for ten seconds? Let's try it this way: what
would you want to know?"
Dragging his hand through his hair, Andrew considered the
question. He sensed his answer was important. "I
suppose I'd want to know anything that involved me because,
ya know, in case I'd need to do something or say
something. And then I guess... anything
formative. So I could understand you better. I
mean I know you had your reasons, and they were good
reasons, for waiting a few years to tell me about what
happened when you were four. But if I'd known you'd
been waiting around for me since then, well, I might have
done and said some things a little differently. I... I
thought it was just a typical teenage crush." He left
unsaid that he'd assumed she'd get over him, leave him
"So you would have liked to have known that... even if it
felt awkward and weird at first?"
Andrew smiled. As if they'd completely bypassed
awkward and weird... "Yeah, I woulda."
"Okay. But what if it'd been something I'd done
wrong? Something I deeply regretted? Something
that seemed counter to everything you know of me?"
Andrew was beginning to form an idea of what had been said
during JenniAnn's and Monica's too-long coffee run.
Monica had likely asked JenniAnn about whether or not she
should confide in Arthur and now JenniAnn was doubting her
own counsel. The angel of death sighed. "I don't
know, Laja. I don't feel like I'm owed an accounting
of your past transgressions... hypothetical or
otherwise. But if there was something... some guilt
you carried around... maybe I could lighten that burden or
even take it away if you'd tell me." He cupped her
chin. "I wouldn't stop loving you. And Arthur's
not going to stop loving Monica so you... you need to accept
that ya done good with your mini-coffee summit earlier."
JenniAnn hugged him. "You know me so well.
"I do and you're welcome." Andrew tried to use his
hair to hide a yawn.
The charade didn't fool his friend. "Now... you need
to sleep." She kissed his forehead. "It's been a
hard few weeks. I know it has. You can rest here
until Max is ready to go."
Andrew bowed his head and played with an embellishment on a
throw pillow. "I don't want..."
"I'm just gonna grab some crafting stuff and I'll sit with
you. Too amped up to sleep, anyhow."
Andrew clasped her hand once she'd stood. "You know me
so well," he echoed.
JenniAnn smiled. "And yet I know very little.
Thank God I have an eternity to figure you out."
The angel grinned as he snuggled into the cushions.
JenniAnn pulled a blanket from an oak chest and tucked it
around him. "Now rest."
"Love you, too."
After briefly praying that Andrew would sleep peacefully and
enjoy only pleasant dreams, if any; JenniAnn grabbed some
yarn from a shelf and began to knit. Arthur didn't yet
have his own hand-knit coaster. And it just wouldn't
be right for him to be the only one not to have one.
Or several. Maybe he would even want his own little
place someday... if he stayed. When he stayed.
He had to. As the woman worked, she prayed
continuously that all was going well at Monica's cottage.
On the couch, Andrew's eyes cracked open. He watched
his friend, taking in her pensive expression and the swift
movements of her hands. Memories from the past nearly
fourteen years flashed through his mind. Monica didn't
have that history with Arthur but Andrew knew her feelings
were similar. Andrew couldn't imagine... didn't want
to imagine... how he would feel if JenniAnn left him.
He truly believed Arthur would accept whatever explanation
Monica gave... but he didn't have proof. Again he
prayed. "Please, Father, don't let him turn away from
her. Strengthen Arthur. Help him to hear the
truth and the love behind it. Help Monica to find the
words and... and please deliver her from this guilt she's
carried for too long. You and I both know she doesn't
deserve it. Thank You. I love You.
Amen." When he was finished praying, Andrew finally
drifted to sleep.
Arthur milled around the cozy living area while he waited
for Monica. He re-examined the last couple of hours,
looking for clues to the pensive mood that had befallen the
angel. Their walk to Veritas had been pleasant but
quiet. Monica had said little, speaking only when they
passed landmarks she wanted him to note. When they had
at last come to her doorstep, she'd asked him in for
tea. She'd smiled so charmingly when she'd added that
she had banned herself from any more coffee for the night
but, if he wished, she would make him some. He'd
agreed to tea, not wanting to request anything that would
further delay her. They needed to talk.
Inadvertently, he'd upset her and he was eager to make
amends. He vowed to himself that he would remain until
he had mended whatever wound he'd caused.
After perusing a book shelf, Arthur made his way to a neat,
well-organized writing desk. A paperweight caught his
eye. Picking it up, he admired its
craftsmanship. The stone had been carved into the
shape of a shamrock but there was something else.
Drawing near a lamp, the man saw that tiny flowers were
etched into the clover. Lilacs. Somehow it
seemed perfectly... Monica.
"A friend carved it. Kilkenny limestone."
Arthur turned to the voice, charmed as he always was by the
soft lilt. "It's beautiful. Your friend knows
you very well. Andrew's handiwork?"
Monica shook her head as she held his cup of tea out to
him. "An even older friend."
Arthur's eyes grew wide as he sat the stone down.
The angel nodded. "He gave it to me after..."
Arthur noticed Monica's cup was rattling on its
saucer. With a start, he realized she was
trembling. Grabbing a quilt off the nearby couch, he
wrapped it tightly around her. "I hope you didn't
catch anything. I mean assuming you can..."
"As Andrew puts it, we're 'immortal, not invincible'.
But, no, I haven't caught a cold. Arthur, I... I have
something I need to tell you." Still feeling shaky,
Monica moved to the couch and set her tea down for fear
she'd soon spill it.
Arthur hurried to her side. "If this is about earlier,
about what I said after JenniAnn got that question, then I'm
sorry, Monica. I know angels aren't perfect.
Only God is perfect. And I don't need you to be
perfect. In fact, it would be better for me if you
weren't because God knows I am far, far from perfect.
I know I've done things I regret and I'm sure you have, too,
but whatever they were..." He took her hands in
his. "They've made you who you are. Someone
"I ran away the day of the shooting," Monica blurted
out. "I... I just left everyone and I walked into the
desert and I... I... I walked away from my assignment, I
walked away from my friends, I... I walked away from
humanity, and I walked away from... from my... my Father...
Stunned, Arthur released her hands. He rubbed at his
temples and stared at the floor. Surely he hadn't just
heard that. Or maybe she meant she'd taken a
breather. He could certainly understand that. It
had been a terrible, wrenching, frightening day. Years
later he could still remember the sirens blaring and people
screaming for their loved ones as they stumbled into the
hospital. Heart rate machines screeching, shouts of
"Code Blue," victims wailing... He'd dealt with the
aftermath of natural disasters many times before but never a
mass tragedy wrought by a human, not to that scale. At
least he hadn't faced it before at the time. He could
hardly blame anyone who needed to step away for a
few... The desert? Had she said she'd gone into
the desert? That was no breather. He turned back
to Monica. "Why... why the desert?"
In her mind's eye, Monica saw that horrid black car.
The driver's cocky grin... "He found me wandering and
he picked me up and..."
Arthur tensed and his voice came out sounding
strangled. "He... he who? Did someone hurt
you?" Several thoughts came to his mind, none of them
good. Immortal, not invincible...
Monica adamantly shook her head. "No. Not... not
like that. I... It was Satan and he... he tried to
tempt me into... abandoning God and my duties as an angel
and becoming human."
Arthur was silent for a few moments, running the words over
in his mind.
Monica stole a glance at him. She badly wanted him to
take her hand again.
Her listener blinked. "How... how is that even
Stricken, Monica stared down at her lap. It shouldn't
have been. "Arthur, I was so distraught and upset
about what that young man did... all those people he hurt
and killed and the families and friends he devastated.
And in... in that grief and that anger I... I couldn't see
anything but that. The pain and the selfishness and the
cruelty and callousness. I felt like... I know
it was a terrible thing to think, to feel... but in that
darkness I believed that humans didn't know how to
love. That I... if I were human... I could... could
have loved better than them..."
"Than us," Arthur murmured. He felt bereft. How
could someone he cared so much about have once thought so
little of his kind? Of him? He thought, even
during their brief exchange at the thrift store, that there
had been a connection... a meeting of like spirits.
But hearing this... He shook his head.
Monica knelt beside him on the cushions and at last made eye
contact. Even through her own tears, she could see
that Arthur's eyes were clouded. "Oh Arthur..."
She caressed his cheek. "I was so blind and so
confused. My own memories... memories that should have
told me I knew better... I grasped for them but... nothing."
The man shook his head, trying to make sense of everything
she was telling him and his own memories of her... all poise
and beauty and kindness... on that day. "I... I guess
it was goofy. Ridiculous even. But I thought,
even then, for a moment we connected on some deep level
b-but now I find out that right after that you..."
Arthur felt sick. If he'd been so wrong then, maybe he
was wrong now. Maybe he wasn't particularly special to
her. Maybe she didn't care about him beyond a casual
feeling of goodwill.
"We did!" the angel cried. "I... I felt
something. I did. Something like I'd never felt
before and had never felt since until... til October.
And in... in the desert... even when I lost so much of
myself when he... he was tempting me... I still held onto
that. But he... he used it."
"Used it how?" Arthur pressed as gently as he could.
He was angry and hurt but she looked so devastated, so
"He put before me a... a vision. A vision of a life he
said could be mine if I... left." Monica squeezed her
eyes shut. She couldn't bear to see Arthur as she told
him of what she'd seen. "I... I was human. And
we were married. We had a daughter... a wee girl named
Tess. And I... I was pregnant. He said that you
were a good man and we would... love each other
tremendously." She sobbed. "He made me feel the
baby kick a-and the... the warmth of our home. And
I... I wanted that life."
Arthur groaned softly. So she had felt something when
they'd met... and it had cost her. What Monica
described wasn't entirely unlike the daydreams he'd had
after that brush at the store. But at least those
dreams had arisen from his own mind, his own heart.
Monica's abandonment hurt. He couldn't deny
that. But she hadn't deserved to be preyed upon like
that, especially not at a time when she was so
vulnerable. And to use the promise of a child...
Satan had struck just where he knew it would most
hurt. Arthur closed his eyes against the memory of
trying to comfort Monica after she'd had to tell some of the
Filipino parents that their children hadn't made it.
As he had then, he wrapped his arms around her and gently
Monica felt him softly kiss her hair. She remembered
the other kiss, the kiss that hadn't truly happened.
She caught a glimpse of them in a mirror that hung on the
opposite wall and gasped. The Arthur who Satan had
counterfeited had embraced and loved his serene, glowing
wife and mother of his children. But this Arthur...
the real Arthur who God had made... embraced a weeping angel
with bloodshot eyes and mussed hair who had just confessed
to wishing to abandon the entire human race and who could
never, ever share his bed or give him children. The
sweet, easy love Satan had boasted about giving her was
nothing to this worn and weary but steadfast love that God
had brought to her.
Arthur sighed when she brought one of his hands to her
lips. "I... I'm glad you didn't listen to him.
That you came back. Because... if he's to be
believed... which is a big if... I could have had you for a
lifetime but lost you for eternity. I'd rather have
eternity, Monica. And I'd rather have you in my life
as the angel you were created to be and not... not anything
else." As he spoke the words, Arthur knew he meant
them honestly. Yes, he had treasured dreams of a quiet
life with her as his wife, settled in a cozy home with their
kids. But that wasn't reality. He couldn't
remain infatuated with a phantom woman when her existence
would have cost this girl he loved everything. His
embrace tightened. "Please tell me how you came back."
Monica was slow to answer. Arthur's words had touched
her deeply and for several moments she could make no
response. She'd never felt anything so close to God's
love... not even with Tess or Andrew or Adam or
Gloria. Any remaining question she'd ever had about
why Andrew so often chose to be among his human friends when
he could have gone Home evaporated. Now she truly
understood that he felt God with them, too.
Finally, the angel drew in a slow, shaky breath. "The
vision, the temptation, fell apart when I heard God calling
out for me... telling me He loved me. He loved me
still... even after all those terribly wrong, judgmental
things I'd thought and said. I told Him that I loved
Him, that I loved all of you. That I knew that within
humans there is a tremendous capability and willingness to
love. I-I just wanted to go back to serving Him as His
angel and helping humanity... beautiful, wonderful
humanity. I asked for His forgiveness and He granted
it to me. And He... He sent me a lilac... because He
knew I love them. Then I... I did come back. I
went to the hospital and I spoke to some of the victims,
telling them God loved them. There was a... a wee girl
I had met earlier in the day. I thought she had died
b-but she hadn't yet... God let me tell her she would
be going Home to Him and to her mommy. So I... I
did. Then Andrew took her Home. And I-I saw
you. Helping them, comforting them. You... you'd
been there the whole time. You'd never left them."
"You hadn't," she pressed on. "And I was so
moved. You were the proof of... of all those beliefs,
those truths about humans that had been restored to
me. I... I went to you. And for just a moment I
set my hand on your shoulder and I told you that you were
so, so loved and the Father was so pleased with you.
He still is, Arthur. And He still loves you. And
I... I am so grateful to Him for bringing you back into my
life. If what you know now changes how you feel about
me, how you see me... then I understand. I do.
But I will always cherish these two months and..."
"No," Arthur cut in.
Monica sat up straight, pulling away, and looked at him in
Seeing the shame and regret in her eyes, odd little moments
during the past two months began to make sense to
Arthur. Even if he'd wanted to hurt her, a prospect he
found unbearable, nothing he could say or do would equal the
punishment she'd pushed onto herself. He shook his
head. "No," he repeated. "I... I'm not letting
you finish this 'It's okay to leave' speech because I... I'm
not leaving, Monica." He brushed away some of the hair
that clung to her tear-streaked face. He thought of
that first dinner together... the way he had hung on her
every word and soaked in the pure joy contained in her
laughter. He thought of the first time she'd brought
him to Dyeland and run around with his hand in hers,
excitedly showing him the sights of Asteri. He thought
of how lovely she had looked as his Queen Guenevere on
Halloween and how proud he'd been to bring her to the
shelter's party. And then the past month... they'd
seen so much despair, so much pain, so much loss. But
still, with her, he felt peace. God had blessed him so
much. He hugged Monica tightly then held her just far
enough from him that he could peer into her eyes. "I
was shocked when you started your story... still am a
little. And I was angry and hurt. But now,
having heard all of it, I think... I think maybe you've
carried around and focused on the wrong part of the story,
Monica. Yes, you walked away. But you also
walked back. And you never walked away again, I take
Monica shook her head. "Never again."
"I thought so. So you're not leaving. And as for
me, I'm not leaving... because I love you."
Fresh tears welled in the angel's eyes, however, they were
tears neither of regret nor worry. She had believed
Arthur loved her, truly loved her, and Andrew, JenniAnn, and
Tess made no secret of believing as much. But never
had Arthur said it. Until now. "I... I love you,
too," she replied. She cupped his face in her hands
and planted a soft kiss on his forehead then smiled.
"Thank you for listening... and not giving up on me."
Arthur smiled, too. "I think we've proven tonight that
you can definitely surprise me... but you could never make
me give up on you. I spent over twelve years pining
for you so how could I ever turn my back on you?" He
grinned, relieved to see Monica smiling again but longing to
hear her laugh. "Besides, I think it might be
dangerous if I did. I'm fighting visions of Andrew and
JenniAnn chasing me down the street armed with a baseball
bat and... and a ruler."
Monica giggled. "A ruler?"
"Well, she teaches, doesn't she? I didn't know what
other kind of weapon she might have access to. I'd
rather not find out, frankly. And Tess... she'd go get
herself one of those superhero cars and then I'd really be
"Adam could lead a legion of turkeys."
"To peck me to bits."
"Rose, Max, Kemara, and Violeta would come at you with their
Arthur chuckled. "And all of them would be justified
in their anger." He sighed and gently ran his hand
through her hair. "Have you forgiven yourself?" he
questioned, all seriousness.
He noted her hesitancy. "You said God forgave you,
The angel nodded.
"So why haven't you forgiven yourself?"
"I... I didn't wrong God alone," Monica explained quietly.
"You mean humanity?"
Taking her hands in his, Arthur peered into her eyes.
"Then on behalf of humanity, I, Arthur Reese, forgive you,
Monica, daughter of the Most High, for walking away.
And... I thank you for walking back and walking with us ever
since because that is what really matters."
Tears of happiness and of gratitude slid down Monica's
cheeks. She hugged Arthur tightly. "Thank you,
"You're welcome." He noticed the wall clock read
12:30. He wondered if he should bid her good
night. Henry's place was nearby and the angel of death
had told Arthur he could stay there any time he
wished. Arthur didn't want to leave but he also didn't
want to do anything to threaten the ease he hoped Monica was
beginning to feel with him. And he hadn't yet gotten a
good feel for what was considered acceptable behavior.
He definitely wasn't sure about staying over.
No sooner had Arthur opened his mouth to suggest parting for
the night when the wind howled and sleet began to pelt the
Monica rose to get a good view and shivered. "So
unpleasant... I hope no one's out in this." She
settled back into her spot, hugging Arthur's arm.
Arthur smiled. Maybe he'd appeal to Henry's
hospitality some other time. "I hope not, either."
They sat together in the warmth of the little room,
embracing each other and thanking God for bringing them back
together and to that moment.
Andrew woke just in time to see JenniAnn disappear into the
hallway. It took a moment for him to get his
bearings. He remembered falling asleep to the sound of
her needle tapping against her spool. But now, if the
soft light seeping beneath the curtains was any indication,
it was dawn. And he wasn't alone. Lulu was
curled at his feet. Kemara was across the room on the
other couch. Max, Rose, and Violeta were on the floor,
each tucked into a sleeping bag. Fawn was dozing on
the loveseat where the angel guessed her mom had lately
slept. Careful not to step on the three on the floor,
Andrew made his way to the hall. Finding no sign of
JenniAnn there, he proceeded to the kitchen where he found
her standing in front of the coffee maker and piling plates
onto the counter. Eight of them.
"Good morning, Laja," he greeted.
JenniAnn jumped then spun around and grinned at
"So... you hosted an impromptu sleepover."
Nodding, JenniAnn hugged him. "You were sleeping so
soundly when Max came to wake you so... we decided to leave
you as you were. And not alone."
Andrew closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her
hair. "Thank you."
"Welcome. So did you sleep well?"
The angel nodded. "Very." It was true.
Maybe it was sheer exhaustion or maybe it was that, on some
level, he'd known some of his dearest friends had kept near
him all night. He suspected it was both but was glad
that, whatever the reason, he felt rested for the first time
"Good." Reluctantly, JenniAnn stepped away from
him. "Need coffee... You?"
Andrew nodded. As he took the creamer out of the
refrigerator for her, a thought he'd had right before he'd
succumbed to sleep returned to him. "When you asked me
that question last night about if I would want to know about
your past... you were being hypothetical, right? I
mean that was all about Monica, wasn't it? Or was
JenniAnn laughed as she filled his mug with black coffee
then began to fix her own. "My past before you is
strikingly boring. But, actually, after you went to
sleep I did remember something from when I was younger that
I never told you about. It was during college."
The angel's eye brows rose as he sipped his coffee.
"Yep. I was in some class... World Literature, I
think. And the professor was talking about some belief
system in which the world ends and recreates every so many
years. And I didn't believe it, of course. But
it did make me wonder if maybe... if something like that
could happen... maybe in the next incarnation of the world,
we'd all switch places. And it would be us watching
over all of you angels, protecting you, reassuring
you. Because then everything would be fair after
you've spent so long tending to us. I didn't so much
like the apocalyptic element... but I liked that."
"Laja..." Andrew shook his head. "You... neither
individually nor collectively... owe us that."
"I know. But that fleeting wish came back to me last
night as I knitted and it occurred to me that... that we
have the best of that now. God didn't recreate the
world and have us switch places. But He gave us this
world. Where... where sometimes we can watch over you,
"He did," the angel of death agreed, squeezing her hand.
JenniAnn looked over at the stack of plates. "I
just... I really hope Arthur feels that way, too."
Andrew smiled gently. "I hope so, too." Hugging
JenniAnn to him, he prayed Arthur truly did feel that
way. He knew Monica would be heartsick if he'd left
and the angel of death couldn't bear that for his
friend. However, he knew that God loved her even more
than he did and He would hold her close no matter what
decision Arthur had made.
Back in her cottage, Monica awoke from a restful, dreamless
sleep. Then she remembered the previous night... the
after dinner game, the question, the quiet walk from
Willowveil to Veritas, the talk with Arthur, the sleet, and
finally separating after 2:00... she to her room, Arthur
remaining on the couch.
What if he'd left? She'd seen humans do that
sometimes... disappear in the middle of the night. She
trusted him. She believed he'd meant every word he'd
said... believed that he loved her. But what if, in
the darkness of the night, Arthur had begun to question
her? To question himself and his feelings and then...
Shaking her head against the doubts, the angel grabbed her
robe and walked briskly to the living room.
The quilts were folded. The pillows stacked neatly to
one side. Arthur's coat was gone.
Tears pricked at Monica's eyes as she approached the couch,
tenderly running her hand across the topmost pillow.
Then her head darted up when the front door swung
open. Arthur. He was back and smiling widely.
"Oh good! You're up. I was debating whether or
not to wake you. Grab your coat and your boots!
You have to see this!"
In a daze, Monica grabbed her coat and pulled on her boots
and approached him. He took her arm and she
sighed. He was real.
"Watch your step and hold onto me. It's a little icy."
Slowly, they walked out to a grove of trees.
"Oh..." Monica murmured.
When they were in the center of the trees, Arthur hugged
her. "Aren't they beautiful? I saw them through
the window when I woke up and I just had to get a closer
The angel could only nod as she took it all in. The
delicate trees were encased in ice and shimmered with the
colors of the sunrise.
"It's amazing, isn't it? God turned these dormant
trees into things of beauty," Arthur whispered, his voice
full of awe.
"It... it's perfect."
The man looked tenderly down at Monica and when she smiled
up at him, he could only nod silently. It truly was a
As Andrew and JenniAnn sat at the table, drinking their
coffee and planning out the breakfast menu, the former
"Sheesh! You okay? Maybe switch to decaf?"
Andrew chuckled. "Yes, I'm okay. And you're a
fine one to talk about caffeine intake."
JenniAnn laughed. "Point taken. But..."
"My phone vibrated and I'd forgotten I had it in my
pocket. I really need to go home and change..."
He wrinkled his nose at the sight of his crumpled
khakis. "But let's see what..." He navigated to
the text message and smiled. "Hey so... pretty sure
Arthur and Monica are just fine." He turned the phone
to face his friend.
JenniAnn beamed as she looked at the photo of the two
standing in front of glistening trees. "Thank God."
"Definitely." Andrew turned the phone back to him when
it sounded again. "They say they'll be here in an hour
so... I'll go get changed and cleaned up real quick, we can
see if the others want to get up yet, and then... I think we
all need to do some tree watching ourselves before they get
here and we get breakfast... Laja..." He reached
across the table for her hand when he noticed she was
crying. "You okay?"
"Oh... Oh yeah. Definitely okay. Good
tears. I just... I need to go to my room for just a
bit. It's a good thing just... need to talk to
Andrew smiled. Joshua was about to get an earful...
and he would love it. "I understand. I'll run
back home and then meet you outside the parlor. Take
With a hug, they parted and JenniAnn went to her
bedroom. She pulled her Bible from her nightstand and
turned to the passage she had marked years before.
There, resting just below Mark 11:25 was a frayed, flimsy
coffee sleeve... the one from the latte "Jack" had bought
her the day she and Monica had made peace.
"Thank You," she murmured. "It's funny, You
know? Three years ago I could have gleefully screamed
at Monica for hours. Now... now I just want her to be
happy... both here and Home. And she is. And I'm
really, really grateful for that. I don't know what
Your plans are for Arthur and Monica. Heck, I don't
know what your plans are for Andrew or me or any of
us. But I know they're good and beautiful a-and more
wonderful than we can even imagine." She
blushed. "And if You ever wanna come back again
like... like in Jack mode...maybe I could get the coffee
that time? Sorry. I'm being goofy. I
didn't sleep much. But I guess You know that.
Anyhow... thank You. Love You."
After gently closing the Bible, JenniAnn set about preparing
for the day ahead... certain it would be a good one.
After breakfast, Andrew and Monica found themselves alone
for a few minutes after Rose, Max, and Violeta had returned
to their movie watching while Arthur, JenniAnn, and Kemara
had insisted on doing the breakfast dishes... alone.
Sensing they wanted some time to talk, the two angels hadn't
argued. They were just as eager to speak with each
"So everything's good?" Andrew checked.
Monica turned away from the enchanting, wintery view outside
the ballroom window to smile and nod at the angel of
death. "Better than good."
Andrew hugged her. "And for that... I am very, very
glad. I like Arthur a lot. And I'm glad that
now..." He halted. He'd known for a long time
that Monica had been jealous of his friendships with the
Dyelanders, chiefly the one he shared with JenniAnn.
He'd never said anything to her about it, knowing it would
embarrass her. Now she would never need to feel that
again. Andrew was sure of that. "I'm glad you
have each other," he finished.
"Me too. Andrew, I... I feel like I understand much
better who... who you are. Who you've always
been. I wish I had earlier but..."
Andrew chuckled. "Monica, it's a little hard to
understand someone who kinda had a problem with the whole
confiding his feelings thing."
Monica smiled tenderly at him. "I know. I could
have tried more, though. But maybe sometimes...
sometimes it takes a human to push past those defenses."
"I think so."
Monica looked to her folded hands, her cheeks flushing
slightly. "I told him I loved him."
The angel of death grinned. "Well, you are the Angel
of Truth so... you should be honest. That's honest."
"Yes..." Monica knew what she felt. She was
grateful for what she felt. But what did it
mean? She hoped her older, wiser friend knew.
"But how... why?"
Andrew settled on the couch and rested his arm around
Monica's shoulders when she joined him. "I've spent a
lot of time thinking about it. And this much I know...
the Father willed it all. And Joshua?" He
chuckled. "Sometimes he just can't help himself from
getting directly involved. Ya know, I put something
together last month... I was going to tell you but
then everything..." His face clouded for a moment as
he thought of their recent assignments.
Monica patted his hand. "I know."
"Yeah..." After letting out a slow, deep breath, he
continued. "That day of the first Coffee Summit... the
big one... I got a message telling me to meet someone in a
park. It turned out to be Joshua. And when I
arrived, he had a takeout bag from Panera... a Panera I
later discovered Tess had driven you and JenniAnn to.
Coincidence? Or God remaining... well, not entirely
Monica giggled. "'Jack' bought us coffee and had it
brought into us during our, ah... discussion."
"So I thought. So 'Jack' clearly wanted you and
JenniAnn to have your talk at that very restaurant...
knowing that you're both so sentimental in an entirely good
way. Knowing that you'd make a tradition out of
it. And knowing that three years later..."
"Arthur would be there..."
"Exactly. Remember, Joshua told me to go there last
month so JenniAnn would still have company after you moved
to Arthur's table. None of this happened by
chance. I don't know what his grand plan is. But
I know that it... it's like that question Adam picked for
me. Twenty years ago, I woulda been shocked... shocked
but very happy... to learn about where I am now. And
twenty years from now... something tells me we'll both be
completely shocked and pretty darn happy about where we find
ourselves... and neither of us will find ourselves there
with only God for company... as wonderful company as He
Monica pondered his words. It was unbelievable to her
that Arthur would stick around for twenty years and longer,
knowing what he couldn't have with her. And yet...
she'd been so sure that the seventeen year old girl Andrew
had first introduced her and Tess to would drop him as soon
as she entered college. And that now thirty one year
old woman was still there, ever more in love with
Andrew. There were differences to be sure but... so
much hope. She saw hope, too, in the way Arthur's eyes
had shone that morning... even brighter than the
trees. "Yes," Monica finally replied. "I... I
believe that, too, Andrew." She sighed
contentedly. God had richly blessed her. The
future with Arthur seemed more sure and with that assurance
came the possibility of drawing closer to the precious part
of her past seated next to her.
"So what all do you do for Christmas?" Arthur asked
shyly. He wasn't yet entirely sure where he stood with
the larger group and if he would be included in their
plans. And there was something else he hadn't quite
figured out and hoped the two women could help him with.
Kemara shrugged. "I've heard things but it's my first
Christmas around these parts so I'm not sure."
JenniAnn beamed as she set some newly washed mugs in a
strainer. "Well... the given is we have a party here
sometime in the month of December... depending on what works
with the most people's schedules... to decorate the big tree
in the ballroom. Which reminds me... we gotta get
ornaments for you two!"
Arthur and Kemara smiled at each other, both pleased to be
thrust into the Dyeland traditions.
"There'll be lotsa food. Dancing. Santa always
stops by to visit with the kids... with Adam mysteriously
disappearing during that. Games sometimes. So
that's our big thing. But then we also try to schedule
other, smaller activities and whomever wants in on those
just shows up. So like we always try to do something
at the Phoenix. Again, Santa usually makes an
appearance. Then we bake cookies and/or lead
carols. Arthur, we'd love to do something at True
Light if you're willing."
"Wow. I... Yeah! I'd really love that."
"Cool. So there's that. Then Andrew and Max
would really like to do something with the veterans
again. Last year we made em blankets and hosted a
party at the hospital/ counseling center."
Kemara beamed. "I love that. So it's not like
you keep busy or anything?"
JenniAnn laughed. "Oh no, not busy at all... And
then Christmas Eve and Christmas are kinda plan as we
go. Sometimes we have a get-together here again or at
Serendipity. Sometimes that's more quiet and smaller
with some people traveling. Oh except for sure this
year some of us are going to my hometown on Christmas Eve
cause we have a friend, Ivy, who is performing in a concert
at her church. So we'll do that."
"Is Ivy a former Dyelander?" Arthur asked.
Kemara shook her head. "She was one of Andrew's and
Violeta's assignments and then JenniAnn and I helped and got
to know her."
"We've been really wanting Monica to meet her so maybe the
two of you could join us?" JenniAnn invited.
Arthur smiled. Apparently he was included in a lot of
plans! "I'd really love that. Thank you,
JenniAnn. So... do you do... is there like a gift
"Not officially. People just do on their own."
"So... if you don't mind my asking... what do you... I mean
do you... usually get Andrew something?"
While Arthur fixated on the pan he was scrubbing, JenniAnn
and Kemara exchanged bemused smiles.
"Well... usually I can't quite stop myself from buying him a
new sweater or something. But for the most part we're
more into the sentimental, homemade gifts. But, yeah,
we do exchange presents."
"Oh. So... what does he... when he gets or makes your
present is it more..." Arthur shook his head. He
didn't want to pry but he had no idea what to get Monica for
Kemara stifled a laugh. Poor Arthur.
JenniAnn set a hand on the man's arm. "We can help you
pick out or make a present for Monica if you want."
Arthur blushed but smiled gratefully. "Thank
you. I, umm, I've never had to get a lady a Christmas
present except my mom."
"I'm sure you'll choose beautifully," JenniAnn
assured. "And I... I'm just really glad you're here,
"I know I've only been around a short time but I've never
seen Monica so happy," Kemara added.
"Really," the two women replied in unison.
"I really... really don't want to screw this up," the man
"You won't. I mean we all end up goofing up a bit
sometimes... angels and humans alike. But trust me on
this... even when it seems to make no sense and you can't
see how it's all going to work out... it just does.
Because you have love... and God who is Love... on your
side, Arthur. You and Monica both do."
Arthur let out a ragged breath then smiled again. If
anyone would know, he figured JenniAnn would. "I
know. Thank you for the reminder."
Before any more could be said, Andrew and Monica trooped
into the kitchen with Max trailing them.
"Sorry to intrude. My butterbeer making skills have
been requested," Andrew explained.
"Harry and his friends were drinking some and we got
jealous," Max added.
"And I could do with a bit more coffee if there might be
JenniAnn grabbed the coffee pot. "Of course."
She handed it to Monica.
"Thank you!" Taking it, Monica moved to the counter to
prepare a cup. Arthur moved to stand near her.
"There's something I've been meaning to tell you."
The angel looked to him and smiled when she saw he was
"Well, a few years ago at the thrift shop, we thought that
we might get an increase in business if we added a little
something. So we put in a cafe and I learned how to be
a barista. I hadn't done it in a while so I was afraid
the ol' skills might have gotten rusty but I was trying them
out with some of the guys back in Manhattan and... turns out
I make a pretty mean mocha latte."
Overhearing, Andrew chuckled. Arthur hardly needed
anything further to endear him to Monica... but his double
life as a barista certainly couldn't hurt.
"Could I make you one?" the man offered eagerly.
"Yes... please." Monica stepped away from the coffee
and watched in awe... already sure it was going to be the
best mocha latte she'd ever tasted.
Later that day, as the others played with Fawn and Lulu,
Monica and Arthur sat in the gazebo behind Willowveil
Castle. They laughed as they watched the ecstatic dogs
run from person to person, searching for their toy.
"Do you know who has it now?" Monica asked.
"Rose, I think. And I think Fawn's onto her."
Arthur laughed when the dog made a beeline for the young
woman and began nosing her coat pocket. "And there it
Monica smiled. "Arthur?"
"I'm really glad you could spend Thanksgiving with us.
And I'm even more glad for... for last night and this
The man beamed. "I'm glad, too. Everyone's so
great and has made me feel so much at home and... and
you. Monica, I've never had a happier
Thanksgiving. I've, umm..." He glanced over to where
JenniAnn was hugging Andrew as they both laughed while Max
played tug of war with the dogs. "I'm not like
JenniAnn with the one boyfriend to her name. I mean
not that I've had tons of girlfriends. I've not.
But... more than one... and probably more seriously
than..." His cheeks flushed.
Monica took his hands in hers. "JenniAnn had her
path. You have yours. I would never judge,
Arthur. Especially not after last night. Tell
He smiled gently. "Thanks. So... Maybe
it's cool to date the guy who runs the charity thrift
shop. I don't know. But I guess it's not as cool
when he needs to leave repeatedly for weeks at a time
because something happened a world away. And
sometimes... sometimes I have a more difficult time
adjusting back. At first they'd want to hear all about
what I'd seen but... but then they'd be ready for me to shut
up and just talk about 'normal things' but 'normal' just
didn't seem real to me yet. They wanted the do
gooder boyfriend... but not all the difficulties that came
with it. So I never blamed them
when they left. But it still hurt so... so I stopped
trying a while ago. Gave up on the whole idea of being
Monica sniffled. Despite the fact that these failed
relationships had worked to her favor, she hated thinking
that anyone had ever hurt Arthur.
Arthur hugged her. "Until one day when this beautiful
girl walked into my shop because her friend needed a new
outfit and some glasses. And something told me that
this girl would understand me. If only we got to know
each other a little better. Because I sensed in her a
deep compassion and desire to help and a gentleness and a
willingness to listen and to talk honestly about both the
trivial things and the really, really important things...
and nothing I know now has changed that, Monica. I
look at you and I still see that... even more. Because
when I was out there alone this morning, looking at those
trees, I realized that you didn't need to tell me any of
that. But you wanted me to have the chance to see you
honestly. Which makes me think that's the way you see
me... honestly. And that... that's what I need more
than a wife or kids or a house with a picket fence running
around it. Someone who sees me honestly and loves me
in spite of it."
"Because of it," the angel gently corrected.
Too moved to speak, Arthur bent to kiss the top of Monica's
After a few moments of companionable silence, Arthur
startled. "I just remembered there was something else
I was thinking about this morning that I meant to tell
you. So that day you walked into the store... we'd had
an influx of donations and needed to add more shelves to the
backroom. So I was trying to get those
installed. But then this guy walks in and says he was
sent to get the shelves put up so I could focus on the
customers. I should have found it all a bit suspect, I
guess, but there was just something so... trustworthy about
him. So I went and left him to do his shelving
thing. And to think... if he hadn't showed up, we
wouldn't have met because I would have been in that
backroom! And it turned out he was a pretty stellar
guy, too. I saw him at the hospital later. Never
got a chance to talk to him there but every time I saw him,
he was comforting someone... and they actually looked
The pieces began to slide together for Monica. Mystery
man. Carpentry skills. Trustworthy.
Comforting. Andrew's words from earlier: "Sometimes he just
can't help himself from getting directly involved."
"Arthur, what... what did he look like?" she questioned.
"Details are getting blurry but I still remember his general
description because later I asked my supervisor about
him. Maybe mid-thirties. Middle Eastern
descent. Not incredibly handsome but he had a good
quality to him. My supervisor didn't know who I was
talking about." Arthur smiled. "I always
wondered if he was an angel. So... sound like any
angels you know?"
Monica stared up at the sky, her eyes misting.
"There... there are many angels who could fit that
description but I think the person you saw... I think he
belongs to us all."
Arthur was struck by the enigmatic response and the beatific
smile on Monica's face but he sensed he needed to leave it
at that... an enigma. And he was content to remain in
that mystery and whatever other mysteries came his way... so
long as she was with him.
As with "The Coffee Summit," Monica's temptation
remembrances were heavily inspired by "Netherlands."
Also, "God never created anything stronger than the power of
real love. It lives forever, and you never know where it's
coming from next" is one of Monica's lines from the episode
"The One That Got Away."
John 8: 32
to the Author's Cut