A Touched by an Angel story
By: Yvette Jessen
© 2001 not intended to infringe on any previously held copyrights.
Please Note: This story is the eleventh in a sequence of stories, which I have written, which are centered on my character, Christina, her family and friends. The first one is entitled ‘The Innocence of a Child’, the second ‘A Little Girl’s Wish’, the third ‘The Senior Prom’, the fourth 'Stealing Second', the fifth 'Another Halloween Night', the sixth 'An Overdue Appointment', the seventh 'Homecoming', the eighth 'Solitary Without Hope', the ninth 'Making the Grade', and the tenth 'Till Death Do Us Part'.
Nun aber bleiben Glauben, Hoffnung, Liebe, diese drei; aber die Liebe ist die größte unter ihnen. 1. Corinthians 13:13
Lasset uns einander lieb haben; denn die Liebe ist von Gott, und wer liebt, der ist von Gott geboren und kennt Gott. Wer nicht liebt, der kennt Gott nicht; denn Gott ist Liebe...und wer in der Liebe bleibt, der bleibt in Gott und Gott in ihm. 1. John 4:7-8, 16.
20-year-old Olivia Caracas lay in the mud after being attacked by her ex-boyfriend near the university where she studied. It had been brutal; he had bound her wrists, hit her, and left her swollen and bruised body in an alley. Ironically, aside from having been beat up, she felt physically fine, but she was so frightened when she considered the possibility that he would return, and her emotional state somehow gave the distinct impression that the assault had been ten times more severe than it realistically was.
From the time that she started her studies up until that point, she had always been careful, maybe too much so, but although this did not come completely unexpected, she was overcome with shame because of it. Her thoughts were a whirlwind as she tried to stand up, but couldn't; she was just too weak, and she sank back onto the wet ground, her eyes filling with tears, and her expression that of the utmost terror.
In the back of her mind, she couldn't help but remember what her friend's husband, Jeremy Lowery, had told her prior to moving to the big city and going to school there. She knew that he was trustworthy because he did work as a sketch artist for the police and he knew what he was talking about regarding being on guard in the big city, but she had no idea that what she was a victim of was what people often called 'domestic violence'.
Regardless of what had transpired here, Olivia always tried to listen to Jeremy, but after she had started her studies, perhaps meshed in between that, she had inadvertently forgotten not only how dangerous the big city could be, but also how dangerous her ex-boyfriend, Greg, really was.
Greg was someone she had known in the town where she had grown up. He had attended high school there with her, and his family was known to be traditionalist bordering on old-fashioned. Greg had grown up believing that a woman's place was with a family, fitting in with the old saying 'barefoot and pregnant'. He could only see his girlfriend in the kitchen raising children, baking pies for church bazaars and submitting to him completely.
The fact that Olivia dreamed of becoming a doctor and working was something that he simply could not grasp. He did everything he could to prevent her from attaining her goal, even sabotaged her reports or erased files on her computer. When she refused to sacrifice this dream, he became violent with her, and she was often beaten by him as a way of getting her to submit to his will.
Olivia had known for months that the relationship with Greg was coming to an end, but she had no idea how to get out of it. Now, after telling him that it was over, he had beaten her again.
This had been her first semester at the University and for almost the last 15 years, she had lived in a small town some hour's away. She remembered how she had struggled to finish high school, and upon getting her diploma, she had been so excited about starting the 'Pre Med' program at the University.
It had been a hard time for her; she received little if no help from her family, but rather, had been encouraged almost constantly by her friends; Christina as well as her parents and Lindsey Miller, but especially Andrew. He had helped her so much when it came time to decide to return to school, and she was grateful to him for all that he had done for her, but today, she knew she would not be able to look him in the eye without being encompassed with shame.
Now, she lay bruised and hurting on the sidewalk in a dark and dismal alley, the pain was so intense that she somehow believed that death would have been preferable. It even hurt her to cry, and her ragged breathing depicted that she was unable to even speak and call out for help. The shadows that seemed to encompass her were nothing short of frightening, and all she could remember was her body being dumped in the alley, the car speeding off, and the memories of her ex-boyfriend's menacing face spinning away in circular motion as she sent a desperate plea to God for help before allowing herself to pass out.
Within moments, she weakly opened her eyes, and could hear that someone had come and she reached the conclusion that this person would either help her or would knock her senseless. She could feel the breeze as the man crouched down beside her and began to speak to her, his familiar voice replacing the mixed up thoughts raging through her mind. "Olivia, sweetheart, don't be afraid, I'm here to help you, you're not alone."
The girl remained on the ground unable to move, and the Angel of Death named Andrew sent up a prayer for his friend whom he now stood over. "Father please let her be OK," he pleaded, and when he got the answer he hoped for, he sat down next to her and began to remove the ties, which bound her wrists.
As she began to feel the blood circulating in her hands, she reached in the direction of where she had heard the voice and tried to touch the face of the man who was helping her. "Wwho?" The tears continued to stream down her muddy face, her body still weak and the angel could tell by her movements that she was not fully conscious of what was happening. It was clear to him that she truly did not know who he was because her hands were trembling violently and as she was reaching out towards him, she carried a terrified look on her face.
He took her outstretched hand in his and squeezed it gently. "You're going to be OK, Olivia. God heard your prayers, and He sent me to help you."
The young woman licked her dry lips, and tried desperately to remember what was actually happening. "I"
"Shhh," he whispered softly and put one of his arms around her shoulders, the other, he put under her knees and lifted her gently off the ground. She wound her free arm around his neck. "I'm taking you some place safe, Olivia, don't be afraid," he spoke as he carried her out of the alley and to his nearby apartment.
As he walked, he would glance over his shoulder every so often to make sure he was not being followed or that anything could happen that would put his friend in mortal danger. Andrew concluded that based on where they were, she could very well get hurt again and since the Father had told him it was alright to help her, he intended on doing just that.
She closed her eyes and allowed her face to rest against his upper arm near his shoulder. There she felt for a moment that he had rested his hand against her face, and feeling her energy give out, she eventually allowed herself to slip out of consciousness.
Reaching the apartment, he managed to fish his key out of his jacket pocket and open the door all the while holding the injured girl in his arms. Once inside the small apartment, he immediately brought her to the sofa and laid her amongst the cushions before returning and closing the door.
His green eyes were full of compassion as he watched over her for some time. As soon as she began to stir, he crouched down next to her as her eyes slowly opened. "Olivia?"
She moaned, but as she became more conscious of her surroundings, he could see the tears streaming down her cheeks and it was obvious that she was in a state somewhere between being fully conscious and sleep.
"It hurts, oh please God help me, it hurts so much…" She reached up to touch her face, but when she felt someone's hand taking her own and preventing her from doing so, she tried to focus on the gentle person seated next to her. When she couldn't, she became all the more frightened. "W-who's there? I-I'm so afraid."
Andrew could see that she had been beaten pretty badly, but rather than speak of that which might frighten her all the more, he brushed her hair out from in front of her soft brown eyes and spoke gently to her. "It's OK, I know you're hurting, but you're safe here, Olivia, don't be afraid, no one's going hurt you." He reached for a comforter, which covered the nearby chair, and he covered her with it all the while offering her a gentle and loving smile.
"Andrew?" She managed to whisper as she licked her bruised lips and tried to focus on him. Her vision was still blurry, but she managed to speak, her voice filled with fear. "Is that you?" She finally managed to whisper. It had been almost four years since she had seen him, and that was when she had seen him at her friend, Christina's, wedding.
"Yes, Olivia, it's me, and you're safe here," he affirmed taking her hand gently. "Everything's going to be OK."
"I'm so scared," she moaned again.
"I know," he said gently.
"Are you here to take me home?" She asked her soft voice weak and filled with indescribable pain.
"No, sweetheart, it's not yet your time," he said gently, and once again brushed her hair out from in front of her eyes.
"Please, take me to heaven, it hurts so much, I can't bear anymore," she pleaded with him.
"I can't," he said gently. "I'm here as your friend, Olivia, not as your Angel of Death."
"Yes, only as your friend," he said comfortingly.
"Please Andrew," her voice was still weak. "Can't you take my pain away?" She whispered; her voice filled with pain and hopelessness. She looked up at him, her eyes imploring him as they filled with tears once she tried to shift her weight. As she did, she could feel the pain enveloping her and she began to weep bitterly, some words emerging, but they were incomprehensible.
"Just lie still now," he said softly. "I'll be with you through everything, I promise," he brushed his hand slowly and gently across her cheek and watched as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. "That's it, my friend, just try and get some rest. I'm here, and God's with you, too and neither of us are going to leave you to fight this alone."
He remained with her through the night, keeping silent vigil by her side, constantly muttering words in prayer for his young friend. "She's lost hope, Father," he prayed sadly. "How can I help her find it again?"
Much to Andrew's relief, Olivia slept through the night, but he noticed that she often tossed and turned, and he wondered almost constantly what thoughts were going through her troubled mind.
When the morning sunshine eventually filtered through the window, he could see that she had woken up and as she tried to sit up, he could tell that she was nervous, simply because she was now looking around her new surroundings with traces of fear in her eyes.
"Good morning," he said gently to her once she had made eye contact with him.
She smiled weakly, but spoke, her voice soft. "Hi."
"How did you sleep?"
"OK, I guess, I thought last night was just a dream," she looked shamefully down at her lap.
"I'm sorry to say it wasn't a dream, Olivia," he said gently, his eyes filled with sadness.
"I wish…" she spoke, her voice trailed off and she looked away.
"What?" Andrew asked gently. "What do you wish?"
"Nothing," she muttered, but he could tell that she was hiding something very important from him.
"Olivia, look at me," he cajoled gently sitting down near where she was. When the girl finally glanced up slightly and was looking at him, he continued to speak. "What is it? I can tell something's wrong." When she remained silent, he reached over and rested his hand on her shoulder. She trembled beneath his touch and he looked at her somewhat confused. "You know we're friends, don't you Olivia?"
"Yes, but I don't deserve it," she whispered, and he could barely hear her words.
"Tell me why you feel this way. You know you can tell me anything you want and I'll do whatever I can to help you."
"Andrew, I'm not worth your love or understanding," she said weakly.
"Yes, you are," he said softly. "Why would you believe you're not?"
"Just because, I'm not," she spoke, but had started to cry, and he could see that her nose was beginning to bleed and she sniffed trying to keep it at bay. When she failed, she could feel the blood streaming from beneath her nose and she wiped her hand over her face smearing it not only under her nose, but also leaving the streaks of moisture on her hand.
Andrew pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it gently against her nose, the pressure light, but causing the young woman to cringe. "Is the pressure too hard?"
"N-no," she murmured and once she held the small piece of cloth in her hands, she spoke, her voice muffled beneath it. "You've been so kind to me."
"Olivia, tell me what happened to you. Tell me why you believe that you're not worthy of love?" Andrew gently pressed.
She responded by simply shaking her head.
"Listen to me, you know a problem is less traumatic when it is shared among friends. I'm your friend and I want to help you, but I can't unless you trust me and tell me about what happened that would make you believe this," he said gently. "Who did this to you?"
Olivia looked at him. "Mmy ex-boyfriend," she whispered.
"Your ex-boyfriend did this?"
The young woman nodded. "H-he s-said it was for mymy own good."
"No. Harming someone is never for their own good, it's wrong," Andrew ran his hand gently through her raven-black hair. "No one has the right to do such a thing to another person, Olivia." He shook his head sadly as he regarded his young friend. "You need to know that what happened to you should not have happened at all, and you don't deserve it. Please don't ever believe that you do."
"B-but, I do," she whispered.
"No," Andrew said softly. "You don't."
"Yes, I do," she finally managed to look at the angel, her eyes were filled with sadness, and shame, but her heart seeming to cry out in agony as the next words emerged. "Andrew, I'm pregnant."
"Pregnant?" Andrew whispered but eventually nodded as the truth of her words enveloped him. He wrapped her gently in his arms and held her. "Tell me how this happened."
"You know," she whispered as she looked at him in disbelief.
"No, that's not what I meant, and I think you know it." Andrew's face flushed, and she almost regretted having said what she did. "What I meant was, what happened to you, Olivia?"
"I-it happened about two months ago. I had been dating Greg since coming here. He and I met during the last semester in high school. We went to prom together and everything seemed so perfect. But, it wasn't…" her voice trailed and once he handed her a tissue, she disappeared behind it.
"Go on, it's OK," he said gently.
"We started getting into fights, I mean really bad ones, he hated my studies, and he hated that he couldn't control me. To get me to do his will, h-he would hit me, and sabotage everything that was important to me. Then some time after classes started, I met Brendan. He was in my Biology class, and he was Pre-Med as well, so we had a lot in common. Anyway, Brendan started to see things happening to me and he tried to help me. As we became closer, I realized that he understood me better than anyone else ever could have."
She took a deep breath and continued to speak. "It was like magic or something, Brendan was everything I ever wanted in my life, and as things with Greg continued to get worse, I turned to Brendan almost constantly for help. He gave it freely too, and then one night, he told me he loved me, and…" Olivia's voice trailed off and she began to sob uncontrollably.
Andrew rubbed her back gently, but nodded somehow knowing what had happened to her that particular night. Instead of speaking, he moved his hand to her shoulder and rested it there squeezing it every so often as she continued to speak.
"Soon after that, I learned that I was pregnant with Brendan's child and when I told him, he was overjoyed, and he said that we would marry before the birth so the child would have a father and he wanted to have me join his church and have the child christened there. I agreed, because I had visited his church, and I loved it there so much. Anyway, Brendan promised me that he would take care of me and the baby and that I would be able to finish my studies, but then about two weeks ago something happened to him and everything changed."
"What happened?" Andrew asked gently.
"H-he had gone to a convenience store nearby to get a bottle of water and a candy bar. He walked in on a robbery, which was taking place and then was shot after he tried to help the people in the store. He was always helping people, he was so caring…"
Andrew nodded, he too had been there when the robbery happened, and the scene flashed before his mind as he glanced over and could his friend, sitting next to him, her face a depiction of heartbreak. This saddened him greatly, mostly because he had no idea that the young man he had been sent to had not only been too young to die, but had also been Olivia's fiancé.
"H-he died in the hospital that night," Olivia looked at Andrew, her expression a depiction of her misery. "Last night, I finally told Greg that the relationship was over, that I didn't want to see him again. He asked about the baby, and I told him it wasn't his. He got really angry and freaked out. He then told me that I would burn in hell for it, and that God would never grant me salvation even if I were to beg forgiveness. After that, he beat me up and left me in the alley."
"Is that why you believe you're not worth my love and understanding, because of the words of a man who would raise a fist to a young woman?" Andrew asked her gently, his words emerging sad, but also if Olivia could detect them accurately, she could have sworn that the angel was upset or even angered by what she had told him.
When she eventually nodded, he smiled gently and shook his head. "Nothing will ever change the love I carry in my heart for you. And nothing that happened to you would be a reason for God to stop loving you. You're His child, Olivia and He loves you so much."
"B-but Greg said…" her voice trailed.
"Shhh," Andrew spoke gently, but looked at her earnestly as he rested his fingertips against her lips. When she grew silent, he withdrew his hand, and spoke softly to her. "Do you honestly think this is some sort of punishment?"
Olivia nodded. "I dishonored my family, Andrew. I cheated on my boyfriend, I got pregnant with another man's child, and lost the only man I ever loved. You tell me if I'm worthy of any love or understanding, because today I don't believe it."
"Oh Olivia, please listen to me," he reached over and took her hands in his and squeezed them both as his eyes sought hers. "You are worth so much and nothing that happened to you was a punishment. If that's what Greg said, then he's wrong and misguided; but Olivia, God isn't punishing you, He loves you. Believe me when I tell you that what you described here just now with Brendan is special. In the short span of time that you knew him, you truly discovered love and probably the most unconditional that there exists here on Earth."
"But I'm a single woman, and I'm having a baby, Andrew. I know it's probably not the best thing for me. I mean I haven't even gotten married yet," she objected.
Andrew smiled gently at her. "You do not have to explain all this to me, Olivia, and I know that it will be hard for you to raise this child on your own; but what Greg is saying to you is certainly not the best thing, nor is it the truth. He is simply saying these words in anger, because he doesn't really know the love you do. Perhaps he does not even know the loving God we know." He smiled gently at her and brushed her hair once more from her face. "I want you to know this, I won't judge you not now or ever, it's not my place to determine whether you made the right decision or not, only you and the Father know if it was the right choice."
"I want to be with Brendan, Andrew," Olivia said softly. "Please, can't you take me to him?"
"No, I can't, Olivia," the angel said gently. "I think you know that you weren't meant to die last night. Aside from that, I don't think Brendan would want you to give up, you have his child, and that's a part of him as well as you, and that child needs you alive in order to survive. If I were to take you home today, that child, which you now carry inside of you, would die as well."
"Y-you don't think I'm a terrible person?" She asked him weakly.
"No, I don't," he smiled gently at her.
"Other people have said that God would be angry with me because of what I've done," she looked at him.
"God loves you," Andrew said simply. "Many people believe that God is angry or upset with them simply because they have heard accusations and guilt their entire lives, and the simple truth is; God loves all of his children, and He knows that none of them are perfect, but His love is perfect and it's unconditional, and that's what you need to always hold onto."
"But why do they tell me this?" Olivia asked weakly, the tears continuing to stream down her cheeks. "I mean; it hurts so much, and all on top of loosing Brendan. It just doesn't seem fair."
Andrew put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace. "I would guess that it is their way of coping or understanding their own imperfections. Sometimes, people who carry guilt use blame as a way of healing their own wounded spirit. Oftentimes, those wounded spirits are the hardest to reach because negativity and guilt create these images such as the Angel of Death who walks around wearing a black hooded robe and carrying a scythe," Andrew smiled weakly. "But, you know this image is not of God. He wants you to live and not ever forget that there exists nothing, which you or anyone else can do that will take His love away."
"God isn't mad at me?"
"No, He's not," Andrew smiled gently as he ruffled her hair.
"So I guess it's something like, 'and the greatest of these is love', huh?" Olivia asked.
Andrew smiled. "Absolutely, and I guess you know that that quote actually came from the Bible."
"I never really knew where it came from, but it was always something my grandma said. That and, 'judge not lest ye be judged,'" Olivia spoke softly. "I always took comfort in knowing that, especially after I had made a mistake."
"Sometimes it helps to find in the simplest of things, that sense of comfort, and when someone tries to judge you or treats you in an unkind manner, then you try to remember that God loves and cares so much for you, Olivia. It is my hope that you will not forget what I have said here, but also try to hold onto the significance these passages hold for you, and I can guarantee that you will come through all of it with flying colors," Andrew smiled gently at the young woman.
She rubbed her hand over her stomach. "This wasn't a mistake, Andrew and I hope that God understands that I'm not some horrible woman who just wanted to get pregnant or have a frivolous sexual relationship, but that I really loved Brendan and I love this baby with my whole heart. You know I wanted to marry Brendan, not just because of the child, but because I loved him more than anyone else in this world. I mean; if I'm supposed to live, then maybe at least this child is a part of Brendan and that is still with me. But, I don't want to be falsely judged because of it."
The angel smiled compassionately. "I understand and although I realize that it's not easy for you, you must always remember that God will always be there for you, and perhaps part of the reason people judge others is because human beings want to try and reach God in any way they can, and some forget that the best way to reach the Almighty is with love. Not just the love for Him, but love for each other. If Greg says that he loves God, but yet beats his ex-girlfriend, then do you think that he truly carries the love of the Father in his heart?"
"I don't know, I guess not," Olivia whispered softly. "You know, this is the first time I've actually spoken of what had been happening with Greg."
"Do you feel any better?" He asked.
"A little but, but it's so hard to believe that there is anything good in me left," she said softly. "Greg always said that I was a horrible person, but the truth is, I'm so afraid of being confronted by him again."
"I know you are," Andrew said gently, but when he saw a shadow cross the young woman's face, he looked at her. "You believe me, don't you?" When she finally nodded, he continued. "Then please believe me when I tell you that God loves you and He would never forsake you or punish you. What Greg did was not part of God's plan and when the Father saw this happen to you, He wept for you."
"It's hard to believe since I've been hearing nothing but negative things about myself for the last year or so. It's strange to hear someone say something nice about me," She whispered. "I guess I was scared to tell you about what happened because I was afraid that you would have hated me for this and your rejection was something I couldn't bear."
"I would never ever reject you, Olivia. I will always be your friend, and I will do whatever I can to help you," he squeezed her hand gently, but when he saw the tears still streaming down her cheeks, he took her gently in his arms and held her tightly, rocking her as though she was a small child.
In his arms, she cried until she had no tears left to shed.
"Is there something you might like now that we've talked?" He asked gently once she had stopped crying and the embrace loosened.
"I don't know, my face hurts, and I feel so disgusting. I mean, look at me, I look like I swam in mud puddle," she said softly. "But, I'm also so tired. All this emotional stuff really wears me out."
"I'd say you probably needed it about as much as you needed sleep," Andrew said gently and once he took a deep breath, he continued speaking. "I'll tell you what. You try and get some more rest and then when you wake up, we'll see about getting you something to eat and a bath. OK?"
"You're really special, I mean, even though I told you about all of this, you still care for me," Olivia said softly. "It means so much to me, too."
"I care because we're friends, Olivia. Now, I think you really should try and get some sleep," Andrew said gently as he stood up and pulled the comforter over her. He remained standing and looking down at her as she drifted off to sleep.
Once Olivia was asleep, he went to the phone and dialed a number. When it was picked up, he spoke. "Lindsey, hello, it's Andrew, can you come over?"
"Hey!" Came her excited voice on the other end, but then it suddenly changed, her concern evident in her next question. "You sound horrible, what's up?"
"Olivia Caracas was assaulted last night by her ex-boyfriend, and she's here, but she's been through quite an ordeal. Monica and Tess are on assignments and I'm going to need some help taking care of her," Andrew explained.
"No problem, give me the address and I'll come over as soon as I can," Lindsey said. "If she was assaulted, did you call the cops or something?"
"No, I just wanted to get her to a safe place," he said.
"Well, you might want to call the cops anyway, just tell them that she was assaulted and that when she's healthy again, she'll be in to make a statement," Lindsey said. "I'll bring some things I think she's going to need."
"OK, but you be careful," Andrew said softly after he had given her the address.
"I will, you know I've lived here almost five years now, so I'll be extra careful, I promise," Lindsey said and hung up the phone.
Once the call ended, Andrew phoned the police, and explained what had transpired. Once he arranged to bring Olivia by the precinct house, he returned to her side, and watched over her as she continued to sleep.
Within twenty minutes, Andrew heard the doorbell ringing and he went to answer it. Olivia was still asleep and he was grateful when he opened the door and saw Lindsey standing on the other side.
"Hi Andrew," she smiled warmly giving him a hug. "I got here as quickly as I could."
"Thank you," he offered weakly.
"How's she doing?" Lindsey asked once she came inside and he closed the door. Once he closed it, he turned to see her standing near where Olivia slept. After a few minutes, she turned back around to face him. "Better yet, how are you doing? I mean, please excuse the expression but you look like death warmed over."
"She wanted me to take her home," Andrew said weakly.
"Homeas in heaven?" Lindsey asked.
"Yes," he said weakly.
"Man, it really is no wonder you look so upset," she said softly, but came over and wrapped her arms around him giving him a second hug. "You know, maybe I should have spent more time with her after she came here. I suppose part of the reason I haven't was because of that bozo she's been dating." She looked at him earnestly, her smile fading, and her face a depiction of worry and sadness. "Andrew, I don't know if she told you anything specific about Greg, but he's so awful. I mean, there were times that I wanted to get involved in all of this and help her, but then she would tell me she was OK, and ask me to leave it at that, but then I would see her on campus and she had bruises on her face and was wearing winter sweaters on warmer days. I told Christina about it some time ago, but not very much, and she said that all I could do was to just be Olivia's friend, and support her when she needed the help. But, then he would say things about God that I knew were totally wrong, and she'd believe it. I mean I really kept hoping that she would break it off with him or something before she would not only be physically harmed, but also spiritually destroyed."
"She did, she told me that she tried to break up with him last night," Andrew sighed sadly.
"I guess it's about time, but how is she holding up?" Lindsey asked after some moments passed.
"Not very well, in fact, I'm worried about her," he said. "I already asked if I could stay until she gets some help, but I'm not sure how much longer I can stay with her."
Lindsey nodded. "I should have tried to help her, but I've been so busy during these past few weeks that I didn't get a chance to see how she was doing."
"Don't blame yourself," he said softly.
"I don't, but I should have been there to help her, I mean, I do live practically in the same neighborhood," Lindsey smiled weakly.
"You shouldn't feel badly, Lindsey, you've done nothing wrong," he said.
"Perhaps, but let's face it, I should have at least tried, but hey, I guess there's no time like the present. Come on, you probably should sit down, you still look a little pale."
"Lindsey, I…" His voice trailed.
"Would you just let me do this?" She snapped. "I mean you called me for a reason, right? What am I supposed to do, just sit here and moan and groan with you? I think I've done quite enough of that already. I mean I know the old saying 'misery loves company' but this is ridiculous. We were dealt this issue, so I guess we have to make the best of it."
Andrew sighed deeply, he knew she was right, but it was obvious that he was still worried about Olivia.
"Why don't you sit down and I'll make some coffee or something?" Lindsey said; her voice softening considerably and she smiled weakly at him when she saw the sadness lurking in his eyes. "Sorry I snapped, it wasn't my intention, but last night I pulled an all-nighter and I'm just as tired as you probably feel. The good thing is I'm done for the day, but the bad thing is, if I don't get something with caffeine in it soon, I'm going to collapse."
"Then why didn't you say 'no' when I called?" He asked weakly.
"A number of reasons," she said softly. "First of all, I don't see you all that often and you are one of my dearest friends in the world, so I would drop everything, even sleep, to see you again. Aside from that, I figured the way you sounded that I was needed here, so sleep can always come tomorrow," she smiled impishly. "Besides, just ask Monica and she'll tell you that's why God invented coffee." As she winked at him, he couldn't help but smile and remember her as a young girl. Some things really will never change, he thought with a smile, and allowed her to help him sit down.
Once he was seated, she began to move around the small kitchenette as though she had been born there. She managed to find the filters, and as she put one inside the filter holder of the machine, she was humming cheerfully. Andrew stood up as though he was going to help her out, but she turned abruptly around and pointed to the chair. "Sit down, Andrew. You're not responsible for taking care of me today, I'm a big girl and can look after myself, but you've been under some serious stress with taking care of Olivia, so it's my turn to take care of you," Lindsey said but looked somewhat perturbed. When the Father made the same request of him, he reluctantly sat back down rather than argue the point with either of them.
Once Lindsey got the coffee started, she turned around and looked at him, his face a depiction of how the entire situation with Olivia had weakened him. Ever since the day she had met him, she had never seen him so saddened. Her grandmother's death some years ago did not even come close to the pain that was apparent in his compassionate green eyes. "Please don't take it the wrong way, Andrew, but I feel honored getting to look after you. It's serves for me as a way to make it up to you for all the times you've been there for me, but I am under the impression that there's something else, something you're not telling me."
He nodded. "You know me pretty well, it seems."
"I guess I do, what is it? Is it about Olivia?" Lindsey asked gently.
He nodded numbly as he began to speak. "She's lost her will to live."
"Well, then I guess we're going to have to help her find it again, huh?" Lindsey said smiling.
"You're really a good friend, Lindsey," Andrew said softly.
"Hey, I learn from the best," she smiled impishly and glanced over towards Olivia. "Did she sleep through the night?"
"She tossed and turned a lot," he said. "But, I think tonight she will sleep. Physically, I'm pretty certain that she will be OK, but I was wondering if I should take her to the hospital. She looked pretty banged up."
"They couldn't do much for her, if she's still sick tomorrow, we can take her in, but right now, they probably have all the doctors on bagel and cream cheese pause. I guess if necessary, we can take her there before it gets dark."
"What about you, then? How will you get home?" He asked.
"I don't know, I figured from the way you sounded on the phone, that you probably needed someone to help her through the night, so I brought a pillow and blanket with me, they're in my backpack," she shrugged her shoulders. "I hope you don't mind me staying here the night, because I figure by the time I get ready to leave, it would probably be late and I feared that if I tried to go home in the dark I would probably need you in a professional capacity."
"You can stay, I'm really glad you're here," he said.
"Where are Tess and Monica?"
"They have another assignment," Andrew said softly.
Lindsey smiled weakly, "I guess I'm now your self-appointed assistant of sorts?"
He smiled, "I guess you are."
"Just don't grade me on my abilities and we'll get along fine," she smiled as the coffee finished making and she went and found two large cups. Once she poured the coffee into them, she returned to the table and placed one in front of him. The other she placed near where she was sitting. As soon as she had finished with this, she went to the refrigerator and pulled a bottle of milk out and returned to the table. As she poured some of it into the cup, she reached for the sugar bowl and added two heaping spoonfuls of the white substance to her coffee.
"Are you going to need a fork to consume that?" Andrew quipped as he watched her stirring the now light brown drink.
"Oh very funny," Lindsey smirked. "I think you've been hanging around us a bit too much, you've turned into a regular smart aleck."
Andrew laughed. "Perhaps, but I have to when you, Jeremy, or Bryan start with the 'Angel of Death' jokes."
"But they're funny, and sometimes, the best ones are when you're completely caught off guard," she smiled impishly but when she saw his uncomfortable expression her smile disappeared and she thought it best to change the subject. "Did I tell you, I met someone?"
"No, you didn't, who is it?" Andrew asked.
"His name is Andy, but it is short for Anthony," she said. "He told me when we first met that he hated being called Tony, so his friends started calling him Andy. He's really into music of the 'ragtime' era, so a lot of us started calling him 'Raggedy Andy', you know after the doll," she said.
"Now, I know why I don't like being called 'Andy'," he said taking a sip of his coffee.
"I never even thought about calling you that until after I met him," Lindsey said softly. "Anyway, he's my age now, 22, and I met him in a music class. He plays classic guitar, and is really a lot of fun. When we started dating, our friends started calling me Raggedy Ann."
"That's cute," he said and smiled.
"Yeah, but I don't know," she shook her head. "Andrew, can I ask you something?"
"You know you can."
"Well, how does one know when they find the right person? I mean Christina found Jeremy, and I want to find someone like that, someone who makes me feel like I could conquer the world," she sighed deeply. "Sometimes I think I'm just hopeless when it comes to finding the right person. I wonder all the time if Andy and I are just meant to be friends, or if there's something more."
"Let me ask you something, could you see yourself with him? I mean, do you see yourself in ten years the wife of Raggedy Andy?" He asked.
"That's just it, I don't, but I like him a lot as a friend, but there's not anything that really 'clicks' between us. Does that make sense?" She asked and once he nodded, she continued. "You know, I wonder what it would be like to meet my soul mate, to find that one person who would know me better than I know myself."
"When it happens, I think you'll know," he said softly and glanced over to see that Olivia was still sleeping soundly. He sighed with relief.
"You're worried about her, aren't you?" Lindsey asked.
"Yes, I guess I am," he said softly. "She was so fragile when I met her at Donna and Daniel's during Christina's wedding. I was really surprised when I was sent to her last night."
"Andrew?" a weak voice filtered through the room and he glanced over, and could see that Olivia was now awake and was looking over at them.
He stood up and went over to her. "What is it?"
"I thought it was a dream again," she said softly.
"I'm afraid not," Lindsey said as she stood up. "What happened to you, Liv? You look as though you've been in a war."
The young Hispanic girl's face clouded over, but she shook her head. "I don't remember too much about it, all I was able to remember was leaving the dorm to go pick up a pizza."
"Don't worry, Olivia, everything will be OK," Andrew sat down next to her. "Do you want something to eat? How about some soup and crackers?"
"I'm sorry, but do you have anything else? My dorm room is full of nothing but soup," she whispered.
"Why don't I call and order us a pizza, then?" Lindsey suggested. "There's a carry out place not far from here and they deliver, so we don't have to go out, we can stay here and make a party of it. Besides, I can't think of anything better than this for a Friday night."
"I can, a warm bath and clean clothes," Olivia muttered under her breath.
"Well, it's a good thing I packed a few extra things, then," Lindsey said matter-of-factly. She went over to her backpack, opened it and began to pull things out. "Let's see, nightshirt, sweat suit, underwear…"
"Is there something you did forget to pack in your bag of tricks?" Andrew asked as he watched his friend digging through her things.
"Well, I don't have room for water in here, but I do have shampoo and soap, so I guess our host gets to draw the bath," Lindsey said, as she tossed Olivia the sweat suit and a pair of underwear. "They're new, I just bought them and laundered them, and so you're all set."
Olivia watched as Andrew left the room and within seconds they could hear water running in the bathroom. "How did you know about all this?" Olivia finally asked Lindsey.
"Well, Andrew called me about an hour ago, and I figured if I had been in your shoes, I would have wanted the very same things," Lindsey said softly. "When he told me you were here, I immediately figured that you would want to have something warm and dry to wear."
"You're a good friend, Lindsey," Olivia said. "And smart too."
"Just don't tell my German Professor that, he'd laugh in your face," Lindsey quipped.
It was late in the afternoon when Christina Lowery returned home from work. Her ten-year-old foster daughter, Laura, was sitting on the porch waiting for her when she came up the walk. "Let me guess, you forgot your key again?"
The little girl nodded, and looked at her mother with somewhat frightened eyes. "I didn't mean to," she whispered.
"Don't worry about it, but the next time you forget, you should go and see Mrs. Peters across the street. She said that it was OK for you to come by if something happens and I'm sure she'd like the company," Christina said as she unlocked the door. She watched as her daughter dusted herself off and the two of them went inside the house.
"Mom, is it OK if I go swimming after school Monday with Simon?" Laura asked.
"I don't see why not, Simon is probably the safest person to go swimming with since he works part-time at the pool as a lifeguard." Christina said referring to her now 18-year-old nephew. She laid her briefcase on the sofa and ran her hands through her shoulder-length brown hair. As they came into the kitchen, Christina pulled an apple out of the basket on the counter and handed it to the little girl. As they sat down at the table, Christina began to pull her shoes off and sighed deeply as she looked at her daughter. "What a long day, huh?"
"I hate math class," Laura said as she took the apple and bit into it. "I'm never gonna get it."
"You will, but you know I was never that good with it either," Christina said smiling weakly. "I guess if you need some help with your Math homework, you should ask your father about it, he's better with numbers than me. I think it's a 'guy thing'."
"Do you think Andrew would know how to do this?" Laura asked looking at Christina. It had been over two years since they had really spoken of Andrew in their conversations, and Christina was surprised to hear the name of the angel abruptly mentioned.
"I don't know, but it's been four years since we've seen him, unless you did and didn't tell me about it," Christina said smiling gently.
"No, but I did see someone who kinda looked like him, I mean he was dressed like him," Laura said.
"You did?" Christina asked. "When was this?"
"About two days ago," Laura said taking another bite of her apple. When she swallowed it she shrugged her shoulders. "It was a older guy, though."
"Did you hear him speak or say his name?" Christina asked.
"No, he was kind of far away, but I saw him following some lady and her dog down the street near my school," Laura said and paused. "Mommy, can I ask you a question?"
"You know you can, what's up?" Christina sat down at the table and smiled at her daughter.
"Is Andrew our guardian angel?" Laura asked.
"No, he's not, he's got a very special job, and that's why he can't always be with us," Christina said softly.
"What does he do?" Laura asked.
"Well, he helps people when they die," Christina tried to explain and when Laura looked at her somewhat fearfully, she continued to speak. "But, don't forget above all else, Andrew is our friend and you should never ever be afraid of him. Some people are, and that hurts his feelings when people think falsely of him. What you must always remember is that he loves you very much, Laura, and I know that you love him too. I think that if he were here and could see you today, I'd bet he'd say he's very proud of you and that you're a very special little girl."
"But what about that guy I saw, who was he, and how come I could see him? I got the feeling that no one else could see him," Laura said.
"I don't really know," Christina said honestly but squeezed her foster daughter's arm. "But, I'll tell you what, if you remember what he looked like, why don't you ask daddy to draw his picture when he comes home, then we can at least see what this guy looked like."
"OK," Laura said and continued to munch on her apple.
It was a few hours later when Jeremy came home and Christina smiled weakly when he walked through the door. "What a day," he muttered under his breath as he pulled his jacket off and tossed it in the corner. "I have never had such a horrible day."
"Hello," Christina came into the room as the phone rang.
"Get the phone, you can console me when you're done gabbing with your friends," Jeremy said as Laura came into the room and bounded onto his lap. She hugged him excitedly. "I think you're getting a bit too big for this, don't you?" When Laura pouted, he smiled gently as he felt the weight of the little girl on his lap.
Christina went to pick up the phone. "Hello?"
"Christina, it's Lindsey," the voice at the other end said and Christina smiled.
"It's Lindsey," she said and Jeremy smiled upon hearing the name of Christina's best friend. "Yeah, what's up?"
"Did Jeremy just get home?" Lindsey asked.
"Good guess," Christina said softly. "He's grumbling about his horrible day. I think he said last week that Thursday was the worst day of his life, now today is. I can only thank God that I don't have such horrible days as he does." She flashed a wicked smile in her husband's direction, and he, in turn, gave her a wounded expression complete with puppy-dog eyes.
"Well there's a reason why I'm calling. I'm actually at a friend's place, and there's someone here who wants to say 'hello' to you, as well," Lindsey said and Christina could hear the sounds of the phone being shoved into someone's hands, and the static came over the line.
"Christina?" A very familiar voice finally spoke.
"Andrew?" Christina just about dropped the phone.
"Yes, how are you?" the voice came over the line, and Christina could see Laura bounding off the sofa and coming over to her wanting to say 'hello' upon hearing the angel's name emerge from her mother.
"Pretty good, but you sound like you've had better days," Christina said as Laura reached up for the phone. "Just a second, Andrew, let me put this on the speakerphone before this goes on any further. Laura and Jeremy are both here and Laura wants to say 'hello'."
Once the speakerphone was on, Andrew's voice emerged through the room and Laura squealed with joy. "I was thinking of you today," the little girl said.
"I think of you quite often too, sweetheart, how are you?" Andrew asked.
"I'm OK, but I got a problem," Laura said and Jeremy looked at Christina.
"Do you think it's a good idea for her to unload on him right now?" Jeremy whispered. "We haven't seen him in almost four years."
"I know, but let her talk to him, maybe he has some insight for her," Christina whispered.
"I saw this guy who was dressed like you two days ago," Laura began. "I've never seen him before, but he was following this lady down the street near my school."
"You think he could have been an angel?" Andrew asked.
"Uh-huh, he was as tall as you, but he looked older," Laura said. "I don't think anyone else could have seen him. I started to follow him, and then when I got to the end of the street, he was gone."
"You didn't tell me that part," Christina said softly, but all Laura could do was shrug her shoulders.
"You mean he disappeared?" Andrew asked.
"Yeah, like you sometimes do," Laura said softly. "He turned around and looked at me and waved, but then he was suddenly gone."
"Did he have graying hair?" Andrew asked.
"Yeah, and he looked really serious," Laura said.
"Adam!" Christina blurted out. "Laura must have seen Adam."
Jeremy looked at her and then spoke. "Is this some sort of sign, Andrew?"
"I don't think so," Andrew said, "but now that you mention it, it was probably Adam because I was told that he's supposed to be there for an assignment."
"Bryan is going to freak," Christina said referring to her older brother. "You know he's constantly talking to me about Adam."
"Christina, the reason we called is because the three of us will be coming back to town in about a week," Andrew said. "Lindsey said she has a break and Olivia…"
"What is it? Something's wrong, what's happened, Andrew? I must admit when you said 'the three of us', I immediately thought of Tess and Monica," Christina said. "But, why are you Lindsey and Olivia together? I don't understand."
"It's a very long story," he began.
"You don't sound like yourself. Please tell me, maybe there's something I can do to help," she said softly.
"Laura, why don't you and I go in the kitchen and see about dinner?" Jeremy suggested when he saw his wife's upset expression. "I think your mother needs to talk to Andrew one- on-one about something."
Laura pouted, but when Andrew promised that he would talk to her one-on-one the following week, she reluctantly said good-bye and followed Jeremy into the kitchen.
Christina shut off the speakerphone and grabbed the receiver and settled herself on the sofa. "OK, Jeremy and Laura are now in the kitchen so tell me what's happened?"
"I was sent about Olivia," Andrew explained. "She was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend last night, and Lindsey came over to help take care of her."
"Did you go to the police?" Christina asked.
"Not yet, but I did call them after I talked to Lindsey, and told them that we would be in this evening. Lindsey said that there's a short holiday coming up next week before final exams start, so we'll all be coming back together," Andrew said.
"And how's Olivia? Is she doing OK?" Christina asked and after a few seconds she could hear that Andrew had given someone else the phone. "Olivia?"
"Hi Christina," the young girl whispered.
"How are you?" Christina asked weakly.
"I've had better days," came the soft reply.
"What's up?" Christina asked softly. "Andrew said you had something happen, what was it?"
"Greg…" Olivia's one word answer emerged.
"He did something to you, didn't he?" Christina asked.
"Yes, but just ask Andrew about it, I'm too tired to even talk about it," the voice faded and after a few moments Christina could hear Andrew's voice once again.
"What happened to her?" Christina asked, the color fading from her face.
"I think she should tell you herself, but she's been through a great deal in the last twenty four hours. She's lying down now, but Christina…" Andrew's voice faded.
"Andrew, what is it, please tell me," Christina implored him.
"She's lost her will to live," he said softly, his voice barely above a whisper. "Lindsey said that we should help her find it again, but I really don't know how."
"I don't know either," Christina said weakly as she wound the phone-cord between her fingers and sighed deeply.
"Maybe when we come next week, we'll be able to figure this out," he said softly.
"Maybe," Christina said softly. She looked down at her lap, the worry consuming her.
"Yeah, I'm still here," she said.
"Try not to worry," he said gently. "We didn't call you to make you worry about this."
"But, I do, you know me, Andrew. You know I care about my friends and that I do worry about them. It's just the way I am," she whispered. "Do you want us to come up?"
"No, it's not necessary," he said gently.
"I'm always here, if you need me," she said and some moments later, she hung up the phone after saying 'good-bye'.
As Jeremy and Laura came out of the kitchen, they looked at her as she rested her head against the cushions. He knew this look, so he came over and sat down next to her. "What is it? Now, you look like death warmed over."
"Jeremy, something has happened to Olivia."
"It doesn't surprise me, she was dating Greg Munson, and his family has been in and out of the precinct house for 'domestic violence' issues. The last thing I heard, their nutty family got kicked out of their apartment building because the father assaulted the landlord," Jeremy said softly. "You know, I try really hard not to pass judgment on other people, but this family scares me and it petrified me when Olivia started dating Greg. He's bad news."
"I know, but it was her choice," Christina said softly. "They're coming back next week, but I'm so scared for her. I asked Andrew if we should drive up there, but he said it wasn't necessary."
"What, you were thinking about going upstate to see them?" Jeremy asked.
"Well, it's only four hours away," Christina said. "I thought it would be a good weekend trip for us."
"True, but keep in mind even if we did drive up there, we don't know where they are staying, and chances are, Lindsey's friends at the University probably don't know where Andrew's living either. Even if they did, New York City is a pretty big place. I guess the only way we would be able to find out would be if Tess or Monica were to tell us."
"Or Adam?" Laura asked.
"Adam," Christina mumbled and she looked at her husband.
"OK, but even if we were to find him, Andrew said that it wasn't necessary for us to come up there," Jeremy said, but when he looked at Christina, he finally sighed deeply. "OK, we can see if we can find him, but I think we should also grab a pizza or something while we're out, then at least this won't entirely be a wild goose chase. Laura, go grab your jacket, honey, it looks as though we're off on an 'angel hunt'."
"But Daddy, I don't want to hunt him, I just want to find him," Laura objected.
"He's not being serious, but you know where you saw him, so you have to help us," Christina said softly. "Do you think we'll find him, Jeremy?"
"Well, Andrew said that he would be in this area," Jeremy said. "You and Laura know what he looks like, so maybe we can find him."
Together, the family left the house and they practically ran to the two cars parked in the driveway. "Laura, you and I will go towards the school, Christina you go towards the center of town. We'll meet in an hour at the church."
Christina nodded and as her husband and foster daughter got in his car, she went and climbed into her own.
Once she could see her husband and daughter going down the street, an involuntary shudder cursed through her body, and she started her car. As she pulled out of the driveway and drove towards town, she began to pray. "Please, Father, let Olivia be OK." As her prayer drifted up to the heavens, she could hear the squealing tires at the other end of the street.
Jeremy drove towards Laura's school at this moment, and as they reached the intersection located about a block from their house, he could see a car swerving in and out of the white line. It was careening down the street and he realized a split second too late that it was heading straight for them. As he slowed to stop at the light, the driver of the other car ignored the signal.
The car rammed straight into them, the main impact being from the front right side. Laura screamed as the car came closer and then blackness enveloped the small girl leaving her unconscious and covered with blood. Jeremy sat slumped against the steering wheel his forehead bleeding as he lost consciousness.
Within moments, Laura's mind began to fill with beautiful visions of light and a grassy meadow. She looked around where she was now standing and believing somehow that she was in heaven. She could only vaguely remember the impact with the other car, the impact being so severe that she was no longer aware of the things that were going on around her.
She looked up and could see the very same man whom she had seen in front of the school was now approaching her. She rubbed her eyes and looked at him with a small trace of fear, but mostly in childlike wonder.
This beautiful angel was bathed in light, and he carried a loving look in his eyes as he came over to her and rested his hand gently on her shoulder. Laura? She could hear the soft voice of the man as he addressed that part of her spirit that people could not communicate with.
The small girl nodded as she heard her name being spoken by the angel. Where's Andrew?
He's going to be with your mom, Laura. My name is Adam, I'm a friend of Andrew's and God sent me to be with you, the voice continued, the words emerging filled with compassion. Don't be afraid.
I'm not, but what about my daddy? Laura asked weakly.
Jeremy has an angel with him, as well, his name is Henry, but you should not worry, sweetheart, your daddy is going to be just fine, Adam said. You received the most impact in the accident, and now you're seriously hurt.
I am? But, I don't feel anything. The small girl looked at him, but as she did, she began to tremble slightly and looked into the eyes of the angel. Adam, I'm scared.
I know you are, but you have no reason to be afraid, Laura. God is here with you in this place, He loves you and no matter what happens, I'm here with you as well and I promise that I'll stay with you through everything. Adam's assurances were filled with love, and the little girl could only look at him with the utmost wonder on her face.
Am I going to die? The little girl asked.
I don't yet know but you have no reason to be afraid, Laura. Adam's words were gentle as he continued to console the small child.
Within moments, the ambulance arrived on the scene with its sirens blaring, and when Adam looked up, they were back at the scene of the accident and although they could not see him, he could see the paramedics coming and tending to Jeremy and Laura.
They pulled Jeremy from the car and put him on a stretcher. When they came to get Laura, they had to break the passenger side window to get the small girl out of the car. Adam remained by her side throughout the event, and he began to tell her the story of how he had taken a children's storyteller to Heaven, and how he learned some wonderful stories from her and these stories he now told children whenever he would be assigned to them.
I'm so scared, Laura whispered after some time had passed and Adam had finished telling her a story. They were both now in the ambulance and Adam was seated next to the little girl. Andrew said I should never be afraid, but I am. Is it wrong for me to be scared, Adam?
No, there's nothing wrong with being scared, little one, he said gently. In fact, it's completely normal.
I wish Andrew was here, too, Laura whispered, but when she saw Adam's hurt expression, she immediately regretted having expressed those words and wondered if Adam was hurt because she doubted his ability to watch over her. I don't mean to make you sad, she whispered to him. It's just that I love Andrew so much, but that don't mean I don't love you, too. After a few seconds passed, she looked at him and when she could not read the expression on his face, she spoke. You won't leave me, will you? I mean you'll stay here, even if I was wrong for hurting your feelings?
No, sweetheart, I won't leave you, I promise, Adam said and when the small child reached over and touched his face, he smiled weakly at her.
You know my mommy? Her name's Christina.
Well, yes, I do know her, but I know her brother a little bit better, Adam began. Bryan was in a car accident similar to this when he was a teenager, and I was sent to be with him.
As the ambulance pulled into the emergency room parking lot, the paramedics pulled the stretchers out and rolled Jeremy and Laura inside. Adam glanced over at Henry and shook his head.
"Jeremy asked about her," Henry spoke.
"As she did with him," Adam replied and the two of them followed the paramedics inside the large glass building.
It was nearly 8 PM when Andrew got off the telephone with the police. He could see that Lindsey and Olivia had both fallen asleep on the sofa and as soon as he covered them both, he turned around and could see that Tess had suddenly appeared in the room. "Tess, what are you doing here? I thought you were on assignment."
"I was, baby…" her words trailed off and she looked at him, her eyes filled with sadness and the tears began to stream down her cheeks.
"What happened?" Andrew wanted to know.
"Andrew, there's been an accident. Jeremy and Laura…"
"No," Andrew's face suddenly paled. "What happened?"
"A drunk driver hit Jeremy's car, Laura is in the intensive care, and Jeremy is stable, he's going to survive, but the state of the little girl…" Tess' words were filled with sadness. "Adam was sent to be with Laura. She had seen him some days ago in front of the school. He told me this and thought I should tell you, but then Monica's assignment had some problems and well…"
Andrew nodded. Seeing Tess so upset was never easy for him, and he was at a loss now as to what to do. "What should I do?"
"You have to go there, baby," Tess said gently. "The Father wants you to be with Christina and I was sent to stay with Olivia."
"Will you explain to her what has happened and why I'm not here?" Andrew asked weakly. "I don't want her to be hurt because I'm not here."
"Of course baby," Tess said and gave Andrew a hug before he disappeared.
As soon as he was gone, Tess sat down on the chair and watched the two girls as they slept. After a few moments, she went over to Lindsey and touched the girl's shoulder. "Lindsey honey, wake up, sweetheart."
Lindsey shifted and looked up to meet Tess' gentle eyes. "Tess, what are you doing here?"
"I don't know how to tell you this, baby, but something's happened, and Andrew went to be with Christina. I was sent to help you take care of Olivia," Tess explained.
"Tell me what happened," Lindsey practically begged.
"There's been a car accident, honey. Jeremy seems to be OK, but Laura has been seriously injured," Tess said. "We don't know if she's going to make it."
"Y-you mean, Laura could…" Lindsey's voice trailed. "Oh poor Christina, what can we do?"
"Now, first of all I think we both need to calm down a little," Tess said gently, but Lindsey could see the tears in the eyes of the wise angel. "My car's parked outside, and I thought we could drive back there tonight."
Lindsey nodded and reached over to shake Olivia. Once the other girl had opened her eyes, she looked up with surprise when she saw Tess seated there. "W-what happened? W-where's Andrew?"
"Honey, you remember me don't you?" Tess asked gently looking at Olivia.
"You were at Christina's wedding, right?" Olivia asked.
"Yes, I was, but Andrew had to go see Christina," Tess said. "Jeremy and Laura were in a car accident tonight, and God sent me to be with you and Lindsey."
"A-an accident," Olivia's face paled and she could see Brendan's face flash across her mind and she began to cry, her voice trembling as she tried to block out the fear that engulfed her as she remembered only fourteen days ago how she had dealt with Brendan's death. "This is too soon, after…" her voice trailed and she looked at Tess.
"After what?" Lindsey looked at her friend.
Olivia looked at them and after some moments had passed she managed to get her emotions in check and allowed Lindsey and Tess to help her to get to her feet, but as she stood up, Lindsey glanced down and saw a small golden ring Olivia wore on her left hand.
"That's an engagement ring, Tess," Lindsey whispered. "I thought she was breaking up with Greg."
"She did," Tess said. "Andrew told you the truth. Come on, we need to get going."
The three of them left the apartment locking the door behind them. Once Olivia was seated in the backseat and Lindsey had crawled into the passenger side, she looked at Tess. "Can you tell me what happened to her?"
"I would guess that Olivia herself would have to tell you," Tess said gently.
"Is everything going to be OK, Tess?" Lindsey asked.
"I don't know," came the simple reply and within minutes, Lindsey too fell asleep.
Christina was standing in the doorway of the church almost two hours later. She had been waiting for Jeremy and Laura and when they didn't show up, she was beginning to get worried. "Father, where are they?" she prayed weakly, "I'm worried."
She glanced around the empty church parking lot and them up at the steeple. Jeremy was never late, she thought to herself, if he was he would have called her to let her know that something had come up. She dug in her purse and pulled out her cell phone, but when she saw no waiting messages on the small screen of it, she shook her head and looked around where she was now waiting.
The sun had already sunk behind the trees and she could see the stars beginning to peek out. As she watched the sky, she heard someone call her name and she turned.
"Andrew? What are you doing here? I thought…" When she saw his pale face, the words died on her lips.
"Christina, there's been an accident," Andrew said softly and looked at her helplessly. "Jeremy and Laura were hit by drunk driver."
"No!" Christina's face lost all its color and she looked in the sincere eyes of her friend. "Andrew, please tell me it's not true. Please."
"I can't lie to you," Andrew said softly, his voice cracking. "Jeremy is going to be OK, but Laura…" his voice trailed and she could see the tears streaming down his cheeks as he thought of the small girl that had captured his gentle heart. "Christina, Adam is with her. I was sent to be with you through all of this."
Christina sank to the ground her hands trembling as she covered her face with them. "Not Laura," she whispered. "Oh God, please not Laura, not my baby!"
Andrew sat down next to her, his arms wrapping around her now trembling shoulders.
"Is she still alive?" Christina asked.
The angel nodded. "She is, but I don't know if she's going to make it through the night. I think it would be a good idea for us to get to the hospital," he said gently.
Christina nodded numbly, and the two of them stood up. "Can you drive? I don't think I can," she whispered as she extended the car keys to him.
He accepted the keys and put a gentle arm around her shoulder and led her to the car. Once they were both seated in the car, she looked at him. "It's all my fault, Andrew."
"Why do you say that?" He asked.
"I wanted to help you and Lindsey take care of Olivia," Christina said softly causing him to look at her. "We thought if we could find Adam, he would be able to tell us where you were living in New York City. It was stupid, but I was so worried about her."
"This isn't your fault, Christina," Andrew said gently. "It was an accident, you're not responsible for it."
As they drove to the hospital she looked out the window unable to speak. The guilt was overwhelming, her thoughts were centered on Jeremy and her daughter, but the fears seemed to catapult through her mind. She glanced over at him. "I'm frightened, Andrew."
Once he parked the car he cut the motor and turned to face her. "I know, my friend."
As she felt the tears still streaming down her cheeks, she began to weep bitterly. Andrew took her in his arms and held her, the tears were now streaming down his own face and it took every bit of self-control for the angel not to begin weeping as well.
Jeremy woke up three hours later to the sounds of the machine monitoring his heart rate. He groggily opened his eyes and could see Christina was seated by his bed, her eyes puffy from having cried and he reached over and silently took her hand. "Hey," he said weakly after a minute or two had slowly passed.
"Hi," Christina whispered and looked at her husband sadly. "I'm sorry about everything, Jeremy."
"How's Laura?" Jeremy asked weakly.
"She's in ICU," Christina whispered. "She sustained the biggest impact."
"That sorry drunkard," Jeremy muttered. "It's my fault, I didn't react fast enough."
Christina sighed sadly. "No, it was my fault, I'm the one who thought we should find Adam, but I didn't know that Adam would find Laura."
"Is Andrew here?" Jeremy whispered.
"He found me at the church waiting for you and Laura," Christina whispered. "I think he went downstairs to do something."
"Why don't you go see if you can find him?" Jeremy said softly. "No one should be alone right now, and Henry's still here with me, so I think I'll be OK."
"Henry?" Christina looked at her husband with unsuppressed shock. "Who's Henry?"
"He's an angel, like Andrew and Adam, and he's been here with me since it happened," Jeremy said. "I thought I was seeing things, but he's real, and he's still here, I guess he doesn't believe me when I tell him that I'm going to be fine."
Christina smiled weakly but before she left her husband's room, she gave him a kiss. As she stepped out into the hallway, she could see her sister-in-law, Paula, had arrived and was stepping out of the elevator. "He's in room 518," she whispered once Paula had reached her and the two women had embraced. Christina could see the older woman going into the room and she turned back towards the elevator.
As soon as she reached the first floor, she walked in the direction of the chapel. The white hallways made tremors shoot through her body, but she managed to walk down the corridor in the direction of the large waiting room As she could hear the sounds of people talking and patients being pushed around in wheelchairs, she was suddenly brought back to the night of her brother's accident.
When she reached the large waiting room, she found herself standing for a few moments in front of the doorway leading into the chapel before opening the wooden door and walking slowly inside.
The small altar was exactly as she remembered it to have been, but when she saw the back of someone's head, she immediately recognized it as being Andrew, and she walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around him from behind and held him tightly. "I don't blame you," she said softly. "I blame myself, Andrew."
The angel turned around and when she saw his face, her heart nearly shattered, his expression was filled with the utmost sadness, but also immeasurable guilt and grief. "Christina, please leave me alone," he whispered once he managed to find his voice, the words not emerging bitter, but soft, almost inaudible.
"No, I won't," She sat down next to him.
"I don't want to talk right now," he said weakly.
"Then I will," she whispered softly. "Andrew, do you think I would blame you for this? Do you think Laura would? She loves you more than anything else in this world, she's an example of all the beauty and innocence of a child, and she loves you, Andrew. Yes, she knows you're an angel, and she knows that you've been given the most beautiful of jobs, but someone as kind and gentle as you can also be hurt by that job. One thing is clear, Laura doesn't fully know what you do and the extent of the pain you feel, but if she did, she would be the last person to place blame."
"You never told her?" Andrew asked weakly.
"She asked me earlier today, maybe she sensed something, I don't know," Christina replied, her voice sad, but meshed in it was a strength that Andrew had never heard emerging from his friend. "I told her what I could, but I was hoping that you would explain to her, like you did with me when I was little. I don't have the way with words that you do."
Andrew shook his head. "I don't know if I'll even get the chance."
Christina could feel the tears streaming down her cheeks, but she nodded trying to acknowledge the words he had said. As she tried, she found herself looking away; all the while trying to hide the misery she was experiencing.
"You would never be able to look at me if that child dies, Christina," Andrew said bitterly. "Can't you understand? I can barely look at Olivia without remembering that I took Brendan home; but if something happens to Laura, I won't ever be able to look at you without remembering what I am," he said sadly. "Every time someone close to you dies, I will wonder if you blame me for it."
Christina could feel the tears streaming down her cheeks. "I wouldn't, but I don't want to lose everyone I love all in one night. Can't you understand that if I lose Laura, and then you, I might as well lose a part of myself as well? Jeremy is going to be OK, and though he makes my life special, I can't survive with just him, I need my friends, too. Andrew, I need you! I need to know that we're still friends, and no matter what happens, that you won't walk away from our friendship when things get difficult."
Andrew could feel the tears in his eyes and he looked at her. "Neither of us even knows what will happen, only God knows, Christina."
"Yes, but you said that trusting in God was important, that it was the most important thing we could do. But, Andrew, I do know one thing; I know that no matter what happens, I'll do everything I can to hold onto the trust you helped me to find," Christina looked at him. "Maybe you need to think about all those things that you told me over the years about that, and allow that to guide you, and not this selfish pride that would rip you away from people who love you when you need them most." As she stood up, the tears began to stream down her cheeks once again. "It's your choice, so if you chose to disappear from my life, then I will never forget you. One day I know I'll see you again, because it will be when you come to take me home."
As she turned to go, she could hear his voice and she stopped when he said her name. "Christina," his voice cracked as he looked up at her. "Please, don't go."
She stopped and wiped her hands over her tear-filled eyes. "I won't, but I hope you won't walk away from me either. You have always been my friend, you have always supported me when I felt myself weak, but do you honestly think that I would walk away when you need me?" She sat down next to him and after some moments of silence passed between them, she looked at him. "Andrew, I'll never leave you when you need me, we're friends, you know and it's the same as what you told me about ten years ago, if you are not honest with me, then it will have a negative impact on our friendship."
As the silence seemed to engulf the chapel, Christina glanced over and looked at the cross at the front of the small room and then to her friend, who continued to contemplate what she had just said.
"You know," she began to speak and breaking her silence once again. "I don't think this place will ever change. Do you remember when I was little and I was with you in this room, and you held me in your arms and I slept? You know, I never felt such an intense feeling of peace before in my life. I remember how often you have been there for me and I realized after I was raped that if I were to have died at that moment when I had pneumonia, then I would have known the feeling of unconditional love, because you were there with me, and that would have been my greatest wish."
"You now have Jeremy to hold you in his arms and feel those things you describe," Andrew said softly.
"I know, and isn't it wonderful that I do?" When he didn't answer, she continued to speak. "You can't always be there, and you can't love me in the way I do him, but I can still remember how special I felt in just knowing that one of God's angels is my friend, and that no matter what stupid things I might do, he's going to accept and love me as I am. Right?"
Andrew smiled weakly and nodded. "Right."
"Then I see Laura, this beautiful little girl, and how much I am reminded of myself as a small child when I see the two of you together. I love that little girl, and I know you do too, it showed when she was abused and you held her in your arms. It was obvious that you would have done everything for her, but do you know what? Sometimes, I miss those times in my life when I was that little girl."
"I thought you were happy with your life," he said softly.
"I am, but I miss those feelings of having you hold me, and comfort me when I'm sad," Christina said softly. "You told me when we went to the fair with Lindsey that we have to acknowledge the child within us, and I'm trying to hold tightly to that, but there's a little girl inside of me that wishes that sometimes things could be as they were back then. That you would be able to see that child that dwells in me. Sometimes, I don't think you do."
"But I do, Christina. Maybe I don't always say it, but you're always going to be my little angel, you're always going to be the little girl in the fairy costume that shared her candy with me on Halloween," Andrew smiled weakly at her.
As he spoke, Christina sat looking at him; her thoughts were a whirlwind. Moments passed and she inched closer to him and wrapped her arms around him and held tightly to him, her arms trembling and her head came to rest on his shoulder. She looked at the front of the room and then back at him.
Within moments, she felt his arms wrapping around her, but what happened next surprised her, he collapsed in her embrace, the tears streaming down his face. "It's so hard, Father," he cried out loud and as she held him in her arms, Christina understood that his outburst was important for him to heal. It was hard for him, she understood, but she also knew that soon Andrew would heal and that their friendship would survive.
As he wept in her arms, she brushed her hand through his hair and could feel the smooth texture of it. As his weeping subsided, she looked at him; the tears were still streaming down her own cheeks. "Better?"
He nodded. "I didn't know I would do that," he admitted weakly.
"Sometimes even you need it," Christina said softly.
"But, what about you?" He asked gently. "How are you holding up?"
"I don't know," she said softly. "Truthfully, I'm still in shock about all of this, the emotions haven't caught up with me, I guess. I mean; I can't believe that Laura might die tonight; it just doesn't seem possible. I keep asking God why this has to happen to us, but I don't get any answer, and I figure that I'm not yet supposed to know. I'm so scared, but I feel a little stronger simply because you're here with me, and for that, I'm grateful."
"I wish I could do more," he said softly.
"Andrew, you've done enough to help us," Christina said gently. "I know you're not here as an Angel of Death, you're here as my friend, but can I ask you something completely unrelated to what has happened here?"
"Brendan was Olivia's fiancé, Christina. He died about two weeks ago," Andrew said softly. "I was sent to Olivia because her ex-boyfriend, Greg, had beaten her up and left her in an alley. Tess is with them now, and from what I understand, they are on their way here. I think they will be here a little bit later."
"You took Brendan home, didn't you? That's why you said that you couldn't look at Olivia without feeling guilt," Christina nodded as understanding enveloped her. "But, what happened, I mean; how did this happen?"
"He tried to help a bunch of people in a convenience store during a robbery, but he ended up getting shot, and died later at the hospital," Andrew sighed sadly. "I saw everything that happened, but there was little that I could have done for him. I also had no idea that this selfless young man was Olivia's fiancé."
"But, you were there for him," Christina said softly. "That's more than just a little bit, I think."
"Christina, there's more that I wanted to tell you on the phone, but I couldn't without embarrassing Olivia, but ever since this morning when she and I talked, I haven't felt like myself, in fact, I've been troubled by all of this ever since."
"Tell me, maybe it will help," she said softly.
"I don't know if I should, maybe Olivia should be telling you all of this," Andrew said.
"Well, perhaps you can tell me why this has you so upset," Christina said softly.
"To see someone like Olivia lose her will to live is devastating," Andrew said. "She's such a beautiful young woman with so much charisma. I thought my heart was going to break when she asked me to take her home."
"She actually asked you?" Christina looked at him.
"Yes," he spoke, but neither of their thoughts seemed to be completely focused on Olivia. "I think we should talk about this later," he finally said, his voice soft.
Rather than question him, she nodded numbly. "Did you hear something about Laura?"
"No, but I know you're worried, I am as well," he said softly.
"Maybe we should go back to Jeremy's room and wait," Christina said softly as Henry appeared next to Andrew and sat down next to him.
"Henry just left the room and came here. Christina, Jeremy is now sleeping and that's the best thing for him," Andrew said softly after a few minutes had passed. "All we can do now is wait and pray."
Christina closed her eyes for a few moments and when Andrew looked at her, he could see the tears streaming down her cheeks. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her as she rested her head against his shoulder. Andrew could feel the tears falling from her eyes and landing on his shoulder, but that did not matter, he took her in his arms and held her as she drifted off to sleep.
It was after midnight when Tess pulled her convertible up in front of the Thomas home. As soon as she was parked, she turned and nudged Lindsey and Olivia, who were both still asleep.
"We're here," Tess said gently as Olivia opened her eyes.
"Where?" She moaned.
"We're at Daniel and Donna's house," Tess said gently and reached over and touched Lindsey's shoulder. "Come on honey, we're back."
"At the hospital?" Lindsey asked weakly rubbing her tired eyes.
"No, I thought it would be better to get you two to a nice warm bed. You can go to the hospital first thing in the morning," Tess said gently.
"OK," Lindsey whispered and crawled slowly out of the car. Once she stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, she glanced across the street towards her parents' house. "I don't have my key, Tess and my parents and Tom are out of town this week."
"Then I'm certain that you can both stay at Donna and Daniel's," The angel said gently. "Come on, let's get you two inside."
They went up the steps and rang the doorbell. It came as no surprise when Bryan answered the door. "Tess?"
"Hello Bryan, is it OK if we come in?"
"I guess so, my parents went up to the hospital, Rachel, A.J., and I are here in case someone from the family came," Bryan said rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "What's going on?" He asked when he saw Olivia and Lindsey with the angel.
"We've been driving all evening, Bryan," Lindsey said softly. "Can we come in before Liv and I collapse on the doorstep?"
"Sure come on in," Bryan backed from the door and they came inside. "Rachel and I are in my old room, so I guess you two can share Christina's old room. Sound good? You know the way, and if you need towels or anything, just help yourself."
Lindsey nodded and the two girls went up the stairs to the room leaving Tess and Bryan alone. They went into the living room and sat down on the sofa. "I don't suppose you sleep?" He asked
Tess smiled. "Sometimes, I do."
"Well, this is the only place left in the house that isn't occupied, so I hope it will be OK. I can only imagine after driving for hours that you could probably use it," Bryan said softly.
"Any news about Laura?" Tess asked.
"When Chrissie called tonight she told my parents that Adam was with her," Bryan said softly. "Between you and me, I would love for A.J. to meet his namesake, but certainly not this way."
"I know, honey, this accident has certainly hit all of us pretty hard. I think Andrew is pretty saddened by it," Tess said softly.
"Yeah, Chrissie told me that he positively adores Laura, and the way they were acting at her and Jeremy's reception, I can only believe that this has hit him, big time," Bryan said softly. "I just don't know how Chrissie can be so strong in all this. I mean, OK, she's friends with an Angel of Death, and probably understands this kind of thing better than I do, but this has to be killing her." He ran his hands through his short-cropped hair and looked at Tess. "You don't look all that happy about what's happening either. In fact, if I didn't know any better I'd say that this has hit you pretty hard, as well."
Tess nodded weakly. "It has."
Bryan put his arm around Tess' shoulders and when she looked at him, he smiled weakly. "It's times like this when one really holds onto their friends."
Tess smiled and squeezed his hand. "You're absolutely right, it is."
"Well, if it's OK, I'm going to head back upstairs and get some shut-eye. If you need anything specific, there are towels in the bathroom, and I'll get some sheets."
Tess smiled and nodded as he got up off the couch and she followed suit. He removed the cushions from the sofa and stacked them on the nearby chair, and once he pulled the bed out, he went to the large cabinet situated in the dining room and opened some drawers. After he pulled out some sheets, he closed the door and returned to the living room.
As soon as he had made up the bed, he straightened out and smiled. "I'll leave a note for my parents so they'll know you're here. If anyone else 'pops' in, I trust you can tell him or her where everything is?"
Tess nodded. "I will and thank you, Bryan."
"No reason to thank me, Tess, it's what friends do. Anyway, I'm heading upstairs. You need anything else?"
"No," she smiled weakly.
"OK, well then, good night. Maybe tomorrow things will look a bit better," He smiled weakly and left the room.
Tess glanced skyward, "Father," she began to speak. "Thank you for sending this tired old angel here to these kind-hearted people. Please, surround little Laura with your love and help her as well as my Angel Boy, Christina, and Jeremy to have the strength and courage to get through this night."
As she ended her prayer, she crawled under the covers and closed her eyes. Bryan had been right, she realized, it had been a long drive, every muscle in her present human form ached. She eventually closed her eyes, all the while knowing that the Father's love would wash over her and with a simple tiredness, she drifted off to sleep.
The morning came quickly rousing Tess out of her sleep. She rubbed her eyes and was thankful to discover that she felt better, and could hear people coming through the house. As she opened her eyes and managed to focus her vision, she saw a pair of curious blue eyes watching her.
"Are you my poppa's friend?" The question emerged and Tess immediately recognized that Christina's nephew, Adam Joshua, had come into the room and was now staring at her from the other side of the room.
"Why yes, baby, I am, and you must be Adam, right?" Tess asked.
"Yep, that's me, but Daddy calls me A.J.," the little boy answered as he came closer to her. "What's your name?"
"Tess," she said smiling. "Are your mommy and daddy up yet?"
"Yeah, they all are. My grandma is making breakfast in the kitchen, and she told me to come and see if you were hungry," A.J. said.
Tess smiled and stood up her hair somewhat ruffled and as she patted it into place, she turned and looked at the little boy. "How old are you now?" She finally asked as they were leaving the living room had gone through the dining room and were coming into the kitchen.
"Six," the little boy answered as they came through the doorway separating the two rooms.
"Tess, good morning," Donna said as soon as the angel came through the door with her grandson. "Bryan left a note saying that you arrived here last night. How are you?"
"Better," she said softly.
"That's good," Daniel said. "Sorry we weren't here to greet you last night when you got in, but we also got back pretty late last night, too."
"How are Jeremy and Laura doing?" Tess asked, not adding that she would eventually get the information from the Father, but she somehow found herself compelled to ask. At that moment she couldn't help but feel lucky about being in the company of these special people and having them treat her as one of them and not necessarily as they would an angel. It was a nice, but also a feeling that she rarely experienced.
"Jeremy should be released tomorrow or the next day, but Laura is still in ICU, but the doctor said that although her condition is still critical, she's putting up quite a fight, which is a good sign," Donna answered. "Anyway, Andrew told us last night that Adam has been with her, so I'm trying really hard to trust that God will see her through this."
"But, it's hard," Daniel said softly. "It's probably as hard as it was after Bryan's accident for us."
"Well, maybe not as much so, after Bryan's accident, neither of us believed in God or angels," Donna said softly. "At least today, we do."
Tess nodded as Bryan and Rachel came into the room. "Hello," Rachel greeted them with a warm smile. "Bryan said that you, Lindsey, and Olivia came down last night. It's so nice to see you again, how are you doing, Tess?"
"I'm doing well, but I wanted to thank you all for your kindness last night. It was really a hard day for us all," she answered.
"How's Monica?" Bryan asked. "I thought you and her were a team?"
"She's been given another assignment, and I was sent to Olivia and Lindsey last night after the accident. I knew that Andrew would have wanted to be here."
"I saw him last night," Daniel said softly. "Poor guy, he's taken this really hard."
"Christina said that he cried in her arms last night," Donna said softly. "His job must be so hard for him sometimes. I feel for him."
Tess nodded as Lindsey came into the room; the young woman was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Hey," she said smiling weakly. "Is this where breakfast is being served?"
"Good morning, Lindsey," Daniel said smiling. "How'd you sleep?"
"Considering Liv's nightmares, I guess I slept OK," Lindsey grumbled. "She woke me up screaming the name 'Brendan' practically all night long. Tess, do you have any idea what's up with that?"
Tess sighed sadly. "Olivia's had some rather unpleasant experiences upstate, and now this has become almost too much for her. She was beaten up when she tried to break up with Greg Munson two nights ago and Andrew was sent to her and was with her until last night when I was sent to see her."
"I take it, this is something that Olivia's going to have to find the courage to tell us herself, and something that you can't speak too much about," Bryan said softly. "Am I right?"
Tess nodded and sighed sadly as A.J. pulled on the sleeve of her blouse. She looked down at him and smiled gently at him. "What is it, honey?"
"I think you're nice," A.J. said softly, and looked innocently at her.
"And I think you are too, sweetheart," Tess said softly grateful to the small child for helping to distract her from her current worries.
Within moments, Olivia came into the room and smiled shyly at the people assembled.
"Well, now that everyone's up, why don't we go into the dining room and have breakfast?" Donna said. "Lindsey would you and Rachel please help me with the plates and getting the food in there?"
As they finished setting the table and were sitting down, Daniel looked at them and offered his wife and Rachel his hands. The others assembled around the table clasped their neighbor's hand and Daniel began to speak as everyone bowed their heads.
"Father, we are gathered here not only to say thank you for the food we have been provided, but also to ask you for the strength we need at this time. Please, bless those who are not with us. I ask for comfort and love for Christina, Jeremy, Andrew, Adam, Monica, but especially Laura. Give her the strength and the courage to overcome everything that she must now face, and give her angel the wisdom to take her fear away. We ask that you please give Andrew the encouragement he needs. We see him not only as an angel here, but we also see him as our friend; valued, trusted, and loved. We love you, and we are blessed by your love."
As he stopped speaking, Olivia could feel the tears beginning to stream down her face and as the emotions started to get the better of her, she noticed that more than one of the people seated around the table began to notice this as well.
"Olivia, is everything OK?" Daniel asked; his rich baritone filled with his concern for the young woman.
She shook her head weakly. "No, there's something I have to tell you."
"What is it, sweetheart?" He asked kindly.
Olivia looked down at her lap and them back up at him. "I was assaulted two nights ago because I broke up with Greg."
"That ring you're wearing didn't come from Greg, am I right?" Lindsey asked.
"No, it came from someone else," Olivia said softly. "I met someone at the university, his name was Brendan, and I fell in love with him. But…" her voice trailed off and she looked around the table at the friends who were now assembled. Swallowing the golf-ball sized lump that had formed in her throat, she managed to look at Donna. "I was afraid to tell you about this because I didn't want to be a disappointment to you."
"You're not, Olivia," Donna said softly. "We love you as though you were our daughter. I think you know that."
"Would you still love me if…?" her voice trailed off and she looked at Tess helplessly.
"Just tell them, baby," the angel said softly. "The truth will set you free."
"I-I'm pregnant," Olivia's voice emerged, her words filled with sadness, but also traces of shame were evident as her soft voice was heard throughout the room.
"And the father of that child is not Greg Munson?" Bryan asked.
"No, the father's name was Brendan Michaels, but…" her voice failed her and the tears continued to stream down her cheeks. "H-he's dead…" She looked down at her lap and then at Tess, the despair evident in her eyes.
"Brendan was killed some weeks ago, Donna," Tess said softly as she stood up and went over to Olivia and wrapped the unhappy young woman in her arms. As Olivia continued to weep, the angel glanced over at the family assembled. "This little baby has been walking around ever since it happened frightened that you would stop loving her because of what happened. After she told Greg the truth about the child and wanted to end the relationship, he brutally assaulted her, and left her in an alley. After Andrew found her, he took her to his apartment, and once she was able to get rested up, she found the courage to confide everything in him."
"You were afraid we were going to judge you?" Daniel asked.
Olivia nodded, the shame shadowing her face. "Greg said that I was a horrible person and that I wasn't worth the forgiveness of God, much less other people. He said that I wasn't worthy of love of any kind. Then…" her voice trailed, and she buried her face in the crock of Tess' shoulder.
"Now, you listen to old Tess, baby," the angel began to speak and all around her the people assembled got the usual 'uh-oh' looks on their faces when they looked up and could see Tess' earnest eyes, and serious expression. The wise angel took the face of the girl and made her look into her warm brown eyes. "Nothing that boy says to you is the truth, God loves you and this family does as well. No one here is going to cast you aside or pass judgment on you; they care for and love you. You have to learn to trust that not every person is going to react to you in the way that Greg Munson did."
Olivia nodded but looked at Donna. "You're not mad at me?"
"No," Donna said softly. "What Tess just said is absolutely the truth, Olivia, and we have every intention of helping you."
"Yeah," Lindsey said. "And that goes for me, too. But, Liv, the next time you have something going on, you should tell us about it. I mean, we're not psychics or anything, but if you had told us about what Greg was doing to you, we would have found a way to help you. I mean we knew all along that Greg was bad news. Christina and Jeremy also knew and we were all so worried about you."
"Yeah," Bryan said. "Christina called me countless times because she had been thinking about you. Jeremy even said that the entire family has been in and out of trouble with the law, so we were all pretty much aware of what we were up against. But, the facts are there, Olivia, and I happen to know that Christina called Lindsey at least once a week because she not only wanted to shoot the breeze with Lindsey, but she also wanted to make sure that you were OK."
Olivia looked at Lindsey, and the young woman nodded. "That's true."
"As far as your and Brendan's child is concerned, we'll love him or her as though he or she is a part of our family," Daniel said softly. "I just want you to understand and trust us when something happens to you. Olivia we want to help you, and we want to be there for you. Nothing will ever change that, but you've got to trust us when something like this happens."
Rachel smiled gently at her and nodded. "Sometimes, a profound friendship is even more of a gift than a family, and in this case, I would say you struck gold."
"But, I betrayed my family?" Olivia said softly.
"No, you didn't," Daniel said, his voice filled with conviction. Although everyone knew he was not angry with Olivia, they knew he was upset with what she had endured with her own family. "They betrayed you. Ever since Christina's wedding, you have not gotten even an ounce of support from them. We went with you to speak to your mother, and all she did was yell at you."
"You couldn't have understood her, she spoke in Spanish," Olivia said weakly.
"No we couldn't have understood what happened, but keep in mind, Olivia, we're both parents, and we tend to understand more than simple verbal language is able to convey," Donna interjected. "We both realized after that day that your mother decided to put her own selfish pride ahead of the welfare of her children. We could have never done this with Christina or Bryan, and we tried not to judge your mother, but rather tried to offer our understanding, but often times we reached the conclusion that she was not worth the love and compassion of the daughter she bore. You were 16-years-old, and you were working yourself into an early grave."
Donna took a deep breath before she continued. "Andrew knew this, sweetheart, he was frightened for you, and based on what he knew, he was determined to help you. That was the only reason he told us what you had confided in him. He would never have wanted to embarrass or hurt you, but he cared so much for you that he couldn't bear to see you suffer anymore than any of us could have."
Daniel nodded. "That's right, and you were exhausted even after the wedding, and we still wanted to help you, because we both know that you're a sweet and caring girl."
The young woman looked down at her lap, and then at Tess. "Where I grew up, we were taught to put the family first, and what happened after I went back to school, I was told that I didn't put my family first."
"Well, keep in mind that they didn't put your welfare first, and that's what we're trying to tell you," Rachel said softly. "I may be deaf, but I certainly can hear the voice in my heart and it's obvious to me that they didn't hear their own."
"No, they didn't, in fact, they have turned their back on you, on your dreams and in essence everything that meant anything to you." Daniel took a deep breath and continued to speak. "Donna and I have no regrets about taking you in Olivia, we love you and we're going to support you no matter what happens. Don't ever be afraid of telling us anything and if that little baby needs a family, then he or she will have one."
The girl continued to cry, but this time, she felt herself drawn into the arms of the family she had grown to love. They cared for her, and Andrew had been right about their unconditional love as well.
Now, for the first time since Brendan's death, Olivia was finally able to weep for the man she loved and lost, but also for the relief that her surrogate family had not turned their back on her like Greg had predicted and essentially, hoped. She was safe, and she knew that no one there would ever raise a fist to her, and when she looked at Tess, she was able to give the angel a weak smile.
The angel returned the gesture and when her eyes met those of Lindsey, she received a 'thumbs-up' sign.
Laura remained asleep for the next three days, but her thoughts were a whirlwind. She discovered that her new friend, Adam, remained by her side as he had promised. As she became stronger, she was able to not only learn what an Angel of Death was, but to feel the gratitude that emanated with the knowledge that he was with her and he cared for her. This came as a great relief to the little girl, contrary to all the events that had brought her to the hospital.
Adam, I want to go home, Laura said abruptly that morning. She could not help but notice that the angel regarded her with surprise and she somehow did not realize that he could have misinterpreted what she had said.
You want me to take you home? To God? He sighed deeply as he contemplated how often over the course of the past days she had put up such a good fight. He wondered if she was now ready to give up on it all and allow her physical body to die.
No, silly, home to my mommy and daddy. They need me, and I'm not ready to die yet. I want to play in my room again, and see my angel teddy bear. You wouldn't be mad at me if I didn't go with you, would you? I mean, you're also my friend, and I wouldn't want to hurt your feelings or make you sad.
No, sweetheart, it would make me very happy if you were to return home to your family, to your room and to your teddy bear, Adam said gently, his voice filled with relief. He found himself glancing over and watching as Laura was doing what she had spoken of; she was fighting to stay alive. As she continued to fight, he could hear that the machines, which were monitoring her frail body, had started to beep faster indicating that she was starting to come out of the coma she had fallen into after the accident.
The little girl smiled weakly as she felt the angel reaching over and taking her hand in his and could hear him as he prayed for her. When she noticed that he had stopped speaking she looked at him. Adam, is there a reason why I saw you at school?
Yes, sadly, I think this was the reason, but do you know something?
What? The little girl asked.
I am so glad that I got to meet you. Of course, it would have been better to have met you under better circumstances, but I want you to know that you are such a brave little girl, Laura, but you must also know that when you wake up, I won't be here anymore. Adam smiled weakly as he squeezed her hand. But, that doesn't mean that I will forget you, because I'll always remember you.
Adam, would you do something for me before you go?
If I am able, then yes, I will, came his soft answer.
Would you please go and see my Uncle Bryan and Aunt Rachel?
You would like me to go see them? But why?
I don't know, but I was told that you're their friend, and friends shouldn't forget each other, right? It's been a long time since they saw you, and I think they want to see you again, so you can meet A.J. and know that you helped them, like with me. These words filtered to Adam's heart and the angel was able to remember that Tess had even told him that Bryan had named his son after him. This brought tears to his eyes, and he regarded the small girl with joy, but also with a bitter-sweetness that only he knew.
I promise I will go and see them both before I go, he smiled gently as he leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. As the machines continued to resonate sound throughout the room, Laura Lowery began to wake up and the doctor and nurses soon filtered into her room to help her with the process.
Christina woke up to see that Andrew was still seated next to her and they were still seated in the hospital chapel. They had come in there for the last three nights, and would often sit there and pray for the little girl. Christina had noticed that her parents, Bryan, Rachel, Tess, Lindsey, and Olivia had also been in there to offer their prayers as well, but she and Andrew would remain even after the others had left. In the back of her mind, she wondered where Jeremy was, but Andrew assured her that he was still too weak to come downstairs and that he remained in his room and would also pray for Laura.
As she wearily opened her eyes, she could feel that her head had been resting against Andrew's shoulder and she had slept cradled in his arms. Now, her neck was stiff and as she tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes, she spoke, her voice weak from drowsiness. "Andrew?"
"Good morning," he smiled gently at her.
"Are you feeling any better?" she asked. "I know this is probably not the best way to sleep. I have a crick in my neck now."
"Yes, I'm fine," Andrew said gently. "Adam was just here, Christina, and Laura's going to be OK, although she will probably have to go through some months of physical therapy, she will eventually be fine."
"Oh thank God," Christina threw herself into his arms and began to weep uncontrollably; her tears of relief streaming down her cheeks. When she looked up at him, she could see the tears streaming down his cheeks as well. "You were as scared as I was, weren't you?" She asked him softly. "Laura is as special to you as she is to me, isn't she?"
Andrew nodded. "I suppose I was afraid, and yes, I love that little girl very much. I wasn't just thinking about Laura, though, I was also thinking about Olivia and how her battle was just as difficult as Laura's had been."
"My family will help her," Christina began. "I mean, Mom and Dad were here two days ago and they explained everything to Jeremy and me. Things will get back to normal around here, won't they?" She asked.
"Well, that depends on how you might define normal," Andrew said gently.
"I am under the impression that anything normal with us, is not normal with other people," she smiled weakly. "Andrew, thank you for making sure of that."
The angel smiled weakly, and looked into the eyes of his friend. "You taught me something very special these past days, Christina."
"I don't think I was able to teach you anything you didn't already know, Andrew, I just reminded you of the things you had often told me," she said. "I think that is more significant when things like this happen, a test of faith, or something, but all the same. I'm relieved that this test is now behind us. But what could I have possibly shown you?"
"You showed me that although I am an angel, I am also your friend, and you put the friendship we share above everything else, and that's very special to me," Andrew smiled at her. "You allowed me to experience grief when I was not sure what was going to happen, and you didn't expect me to try and predict anything."
"I guess for a time, I forgot that you were an Angel of Death, and I remembered that you were just my friend, like Lindsey or Olivia." She smiled weakly at him. "Is it wrong for me to feel that way?"
"No, I guess not, but being an angel is what I am, Christina, and I cannot be anything else," he said softly.
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I wouldn't expect you to be anything other than what you are. But, I want to thank you for putting your trust in me. That means a lot to me. In all the times that you have been there for me, supporting, helping, and in some ways strengthening me, I have never once had the chance to do for you all that you have done for me. Three nights ago when I held you, I did, and that meant a lot to me."
Three weeks later, Laura was sent home from the hospital with the stipulation that she was not to do too much, that she still needed a lot of rest. Luckily for all of them, Andrew was still there, and he had told Christina that he would spend every afternoon with Laura until they were able to find someone to help with taking care of the small girl. Andrew was happy to do so, and with the two weeks free time he was given, he accepted the opportunity to spend more time with this special little girl. Christina, knowing that Laura was in good hands, was able to return to work.
Christina and Jeremy, although saddened that their little girl was still in so much pain, were grateful that God allowed the child to remain with them, and Jeremy, still needing to get over the guilt he carried as a result of the accident was slowly getting back to himself.
The family had been gathered at the house that afternoon for Laura's homecoming. Everyone was there, Paula, Vincent, Simon, Robert, Bryan, Rachel, A.J., Lindsey, Olivia, Donna and Daniel, as well as Tess, Monica, and Andrew. The house was full of people and as Bryan and Jeremy rolled the tired little girl into the house, everyone cheered upon seeing her. Laura offered them a weak smile, her eyelids beginning to droop.
"It looks as though the guest of honor is about to nod off," Vincent said softly.
"Yeah, and the party hasn't even begun," said Jeremy. "Listen pumpkin, why don't I take you upstairs to your room, and you get some sleep. If anything exciting happens, I'll send Andrew up to tell you about it, agreed?"
"OK, Daddy," Laura stretched her arms towards Jeremy and when he took her in them, he lifted her off the wheelchair and carried her up the stairs. She waved to the guests and as they disappeared down the hallway.
"I guess now that things are getting back to normal, you can refocus your energy on your cases, huh Christina?" Lindsey asked as she grabbed a can of cola and a sandwich from off the table.
"Normal? Ask Andrew what he thinks of normalcy," Christina said giggling.
"Did I just hear my name dropped by you two?" Andrew came over to them and smiled.
"Hey, we didn't say 'Angel of Death'," Lindsey said and she too began to giggle.
Andrew smiled at his two friends. "You are too much, Lindsey," he said as he watched as Olivia sat down on the sofa and was taking in all of the events taking place around her. "She's looking better isn't she?"
"Yes, I think she will need some time to get over her heartbreak about Brendan," Christina said softly. "I can only admire her for that, because if I had to live through what she has, I don't know what I would have done. When I think about that accident, I realize how blessed we really are, because it could have been much worse than it was and I could have lost Jeremy." She looked at Olivia and shook her head. Before she could say anything else, she could see that Andrew had already made his way over to where she was sitting.
"You OK?" Andrew asked as he sat down next to Olivia.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said softly. "I'm not much of a social butterfly is all."
"Not everyone is," he offered with a smile.
"You were right about so many things," Olivia said softly, "but I was so scared to tell you and them what had happened. I was afraid they wouldn't love me anymore."
"You discovered that they do, that we all do," Andrew said and waved his hand around the room, but he looked at her and smiled gently.
"My grandmother used to quote something else. I discovered this during the last few days that was just as important to me as what we talked about in New York," Olivia said.
"What was that?"
"She always said, 'Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love'. I know that this quote came from the Bible, but my grandmother not only quoted those words, she lived them as well. I had forgotten, Andrew, I had believed the lies of a man who obviously doesn't know of a loving God and a person who wanted only to hurt me. I feel a deep sense of shame that I had not listened to what my conscious had told me," Olivia said and shrugged her shoulders.
"You mustn't feel badly, Olivia," Andrew said softly. "You make mistakes, yes, but you recognized them for what they were. Many people have lived for years in abusive relationships, and they didn't know how to get out of them either. I have heard that they wait for years before they actually find the strength to do so. Oftentimes, these people must hit rock bottom before they can actually look up and see the light. My friend, you have shown a great deal of courage when you told Greg that you would accept his untruths no longer. You demonstrated faith because you believed deep inside, that although his words and actions had hurt you, you did not allow them to take away the spirit of who you are."
"I suppose I realized this when I was able to tell Donna and Daniel about what had happened to me that I remembered that the passage was truer than anything else in the world and that my grandma's spirit is still with me somehow, because it reminded me of this."
"She lives on in the memories you have of her," Andrew said gently. "Brendan is there as well, and his love was what set you free. He may no longer physically be with you here, Olivia, but the love he shared with you will live on, and it has defeated the darkness and bitterness that Greg tried to drag you into."
"Are you saying that I deserved better?" Olivia asked softly.
"Yes, and you received it," Andrew said gently. "You will always have it, because God loves you and He hopes you will accept it, but you must be open to His truths, Olivia, and when you told Greg that you wanted to end the relationship, you were reaching for that truth, because somewhere deep inside, you knew that what had been happening was not what God had wanted for you."
"Thank you for being there for me," she said softly. "Of all the people who could have found me the other night, I'm so grateful that it was you, Andrew."
"That's what friends are for," Andrew said gently and the two of them hugged.
Bryan, Rachel and A.J. left Christina and Jeremy's house that evening, and once the door closed, they stood in front of the house and Bryan smiled weakly and he looked at his wife and son. "It's been hard these last few weeks, huh?"
Rachel nodded, but she appeared happy. "It seems like a lot of the things that had been happening here, although hard, were really special. It's nice to know that Adam was there for Laura like he had been there for us."
"I'm always there for you, Rachel," a strange and familiar voice seemed to come into her thoughts and she was compelled to turn and when she saw Adam standing on the sidewalk next to them, she could feel the tears brimming from beneath her eyes.
"Adam," Bryan smiled when he recognized the angel who had been with him while he had been in the hospital as a teenager.
"Hello Bryan," the angel greeted them and then he crouched down so that he would be eye level with A.J.. "Is this my namesake?"
"Yes," Bryan said softly. "This is Adam Joshua. A.J., this is Adam, you're named after him."
The little boy looked into the eyes of the angel and he immediately smiled. "Mommy and Daddy said you are a good friend. Are you my friend too?"
"Yes," Adam said smiling gently at the little boy as he ruffled A.J.'s hair. After a few seconds, he got back on his feet and looked at Bryan and Rachel. "It's an honor to me to know that A.J. is named after me and I'm happy to know that my involvement in your lives meant so much to you. When Tess told me about Adam Joshua, I was so moved by this. I have known for a long time that Andrew has been in touch with your family."
Bryan smiled; his words would simply not come.
"Adam, why didn't you come see us before now?" Rachel asked. "We would have welcomed you into our home as we did Andrew."
"Please forgive me for not coming to see you sooner," Adam said softly. "I did not know that you would have welcomed me until Laura told me while she was in the hospital. She and I spoke constantly and she said that you have spoken of me to her, and she raised the exact same question. The last time I was with her, she made me promise that I would come to see you both before I left."
"We're glad you did," Bryan extended his hands towards Adam and when the angel held them, Bryan smiled. "You're always going to be a blessing to our family, Adam, and we are grateful that you came to see us before you left here."
"Take care of yourselves," Adam said gently as he looked down at the small boy who was staring up at him in wonder. "And, A.J., give your parents lots of love, they are really wonderful people." The little boy nodded obediently and Adam smiled before disappearing.
"Poppa?" the small child asked.
"Yeah, Champ?" Bryan asked.
"Will I ever be able to disappear like him?"
Within the passing weeks, Olivia had managed to complete the semester at the university and had moved back in with Daniel and Donna. She made all the plans for herself, and decided that instead of trying to get through another semester at the university, that she would attend classes at the community college this coming semester, as well as work part-time at the hospital.
Upon returning home, she had offered to help Christina and Jeremy with taking care of Laura and would be relieving Andrew of the responsibility the following day.
Laura, though sad about the pending change, enjoyed all the time with Andrew that she was given and as the weeks passed, she regained her strength.
Andrew tapped lightly on her bedroom door and stuck his head in the room, his gentle smile seeming to light up the entire room. "You awake, little one?"
"Yeah," Laura sat up in bed, her hands holding tightly to the white teddy bear he had given to her about two months before Christina and Jeremy had gotten married.
"How do you feel today?" He asked.
"OK, my back hurts a little," she said softly. "I feel like I'm over 100."
"You've made great strides these past few weeks so I think you're exaggerating a little," he said gently.
"OK, 80," she giggled.
"You have learned from Jeremy a great deal, it seems," Andrew said as he sat down on the bed next to her.
"You're really leaving tonight, huh?" Laura asked.
"I'm afraid so, but Olivia will take care of you and she's a very kind person," Andrew said softly. "I know you'll be in very good hands."
"I'm sad that you're leaving Andrew," she said softly.
"I know," he said. "But, do you know what?"
"No matter where I go, or what I do, that little bear will always be here with you and he will remind you of those times we've spent together," he said. "That's why I gave him to you four years ago."
"I love you, Andrew," Laura said softly. "I also know what kind of angel you are, and I want you to know that I'm not afraid of you."
"Adam told you?"
"Yeah," Laura looked at him and nodded. "But, I'm not scared anymore."
Andrew smiled gently at the little girl. "You're very special to me, Laura, and that means so much to me. You have a very special family, a very loving one, and I can understand why you wanted to come home to them."
"They prayed for us, you know? It was that day when I was really sick," Laura said softly. "I saw them seated at the table at Grandma and Grandpa's. Tess was there, too and everyone took each other's hand, and Grandpa prayed asking God to take care of me and then he said that God should take care of you, too because you were so sad about what had happened to Daddy and me."
"How do you know about this?" Andrew asked softly.
"I saw it," Laura said confidently.
"You did?" Andrew asked and in the back of his mind, he knew that somehow, this innocent and beautiful little girl was speaking the truth.
"Yeah, but don't tell anyone, cause it might be weird for them," Laura said. "Adam said that I sort of died, but then I saw heaven and it was really pretty, and filled with light. I also saw you and Mommy crying in the chapel and told Adam that I didn't want you to be sad because of me. He said I'd have to fight to live, so I did." The little girl looked at him and when she saw disbelief on his handsome face, her expression grew sad. "You believe me, don't you, Andrew?"
"Yes, I do," he smiled and looked around the room. "When you saw me crying, do you remember what I said?"
"Yeah, you said, 'it's so hard, Father' and you cried in Mommy's arms," Laura said softly. "I guess you were speaking to God, but I don't remember anything else because then I saw a valley filled with wildflowers, and Adam was standing next to me."
"You were in the chapel," Andrew nodded as understanding enveloped him.
Laura looked at him. "Yeah, that's what I just told you."
Andrew smiled and hugged the little girl. "You didn't want to see your mommy or me sad, did you?"
Laura shook her head, "I don't like to see people I love sad."
Andrew smiled gently at the small child and took her hand in his. "Whatever happened that night, you fought to live, and that's a gift from God."
"You are a gift too," Laura said and hugged him. When she felt his hand brushing against her cheek, she realized how tired she was and eventually, she drifted off to sleep.
As he was standing up and was about to leave her room, he leaned over and gently kissed her forehead. The little girl carried a smile on her face as he straightened out and walked slowly towards the door leading out into the hallway.
In the doorway, he glanced over towards the windowsill and could see a white dove looking inside the room and he smiled.
First of all, this story had a couple of plot suggestions, which came from my friend Ashley, so many thanks to her for the ideas and suggestions she supplied for the story.
This particular story does have references to the Bible and the reason I decided to include them is because one of the verses was read when I got married in 1995 and it just seemed to fit right in with the theme of this particular piece. The other is an exceptionally beautiful sentiment about unconditional love. Both verses are found within the story, with the German translations of them at the top.
With regard to religious texts, I tried really hard to keep my personal interpretations out of this story, but if any were present, they were only in the characters I created. I realize that we are all individuals and we look at religious writings in many different ways, and for that reason, I try not to use my interpretations through the words of characters created by others. I hope you enjoyed what I wrote and how I portrayed these ideas in this story.
Finally, I wanted to touch on an issue, which is present in this story and that is the little girl's experience, which she described to Andrew at the very end of this story. It may or may not be in your belief system, which is fine, however, this issue was briefly mentioned in the 'Touched By An Angel' episode 'Into the Light', thus I believed that it was OK for me to write a little bit about it here.
Please keep in mind, this story is a piece of fiction and the extent of how seriously it is to be taken is a matter of one's uh-- 'free will'. :-)
I hope you enjoyed it, and I thank you for your continued support. It is through the encouragement from other fans, which inspire me to continue writing about Christina, her family, and friends.
May 5, 2001
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