I Have a Rendezvous With Death
Monica and Tess -- both wearing casual attire, Monica sporting a white Lady Stetson cowboy hat -- , sat on a hill overlooking a panorama of beautiful grassy meadows, barns and white fences.
Below, Andrew -- clad in worn jeans and a white long-sleeved shirt, the sleeves rolled casually, up to just below his elbows -- sat astride a powerful dapple gray Andalusian horse, guiding the animal through a series of complex Dressage disciplines.
"Tess," Monica ventured to her fellow angel. "I never knew that Andrew could ride that well."
Turning to face the younger angel, Tess frowned slightly. "Are you forgetting, Miss Wings, that we always have what we need when we need it?"
"Then, Andrew will need to be a fine rider on this case," concluded Monica.
A cloud came across Tess' face, and she replied softly, "For awhile."
Taking an apple out of one deep pocket, Monica contemplated the fruit, then bit into it with gusto. Tess gave her a disapproving scowl.
"Are you eating again, Angel Girl?"
Swallowing, Monica smiled. "I am, Tess, but honestly, I enjoy it. Ever since The Father made me a human I have enjoyed the taste of food, and just the experience of eating it. Not that I'm hungry, of course, I just like to eat!"
Nodding, Tess said, "You think a lot about those times when you were mortal, don't you?"
Monica sighed deeply. "I suppose I do. It really helped me to understand how vulnerable and delicate humans are -- yet, how delightful it is to sleep, to eat, to have worldly feelings...,"
"Exactly," Tess replied, looking back to the corral below them, where a lovely auburn haired young woman was now standing at the corral watching Andrew ride.
"Tell me about our assignment, Tess," Monica prompted, and once again crunched into the juicy apple.
"We're here for Andrew, baby," Tess answered.
The half-eaten apple fell from Monica's hand onto the ground, rolling away. She looked incredulously at Tess. "What do you mean? Andrew is an angel, as we are!"
"Yes, baby, he is." nodded Tess, "But all of that is going to change...very soon"
"How?" Monica -- still in shock -- queried.
"The Father has decided that our angel boy needs to live as a human for a time."
Monica looked down to the corral. "But WHY, Tess?"
"Think back. What is it about humans that has always bothered Andrew so much?"
Monica looked thoughtful. "Andrew is so gentle and dear, Tess...I seldom hear him complain about anything! But...once or twice, I have heard him sat that he cannot understand why so many of those humans he is sent to bring Home fight going."
"Right," Tess replied. "As angels, we've dwelled with The Father and know the peace and joy and beauty of Heaven. We tend to forget that humans have no conception of where they are going, and what is going to happen to them when life, as they know it, ends here in the world. They tend to view it as an end...NOT as a glorious beginning. Our angel boy down there -- for the first time -- is going to to live as a mortal, so he can get the perspective from the limited human point of view. The Father wants Andrew to feel human fear, experience human sensations, and come to understand why humans cling to their fragile earthly existence so tenuously," she finished.
Monica seemed to be mulling this over. "How does Andrew feel about this?" she queried.
"Andrew has no idea what is about happen to him. Our job, for the time being, is just to stay close to him...just in case he needs us." Here Tess regarded Monica sternly, "But no interfering unless The Father Himself directs it! Do you understand that, angel girl? None!"
Expelling a long breath, Monica nodded. "But, why does Andrew think he is on this case?" she asked.
Tess pointed to the corral. "That pretty young woman down there is Elaine Prescott, the daughter of Everett Prescott, a very wealthy and successful breeder of Andalusian horses, and the owner of a prestigious Dressage riding school."
"Ah, " Monica breathed with understanding. "She's very lovely, Tess." Here, Monica paused and asked, "What's Dressage?"
"Dressage, baby, is a series of disciplines, both for the rider and for the horse. It is an art form for the equestrian. Andrew has been hired as an instructor for the school, and also to train Elaine. She is trying to earn a spot on the USA Equestrian Team at the summer Olympics."
"The horse is doing such beautiful steps," Monica remarked with awe. "It almost seems as if he is dancing."
"Yes," Tess nodded. "Like I said, Dressage is an art form...not unlike a ballet on horseback. The rider has to exhibit complete control over the horse, using a bare minimum of motion in his hands or body. Now, do you want to hear about the rest of this case?" Tess queried impatiently.
"Oh...yes! I'm sorry." hastened Monica
"Someone in the Prescott family is due to go Home soon. Andrew does know that much. He doesn't know which one, however," Tess said.
"Do we know?" Monica asked.
Tess shrugged. "We don't have that information, either."
"But, Tess...," Monica began.
"All will be revealed in God's own time, Miss Wings. Until then, our job is to stay out of sight and stay out of it! No matter what happens. We will be told if we are to intervene directly in this assignment. Do you understand?" Tess finished firmly.
Monica looked back to the corral. "Tess....,"
"What is it now?"
"I'm...I'm suddenly afraid."
"Afraid? Afraid of what?"
"Afraid for Andrew, Tess, and I don't know why."
Tess' features softened. "Well, angel girl, just repeat to yourself what you have said to so many of your cases...," Tess paused, looking down at Andrew and the young woman, who was now sitting astride the white corral fence. "Fear not!"
Elaine Prescott was, indeed, a beauty. It wasn't expensive make-up, or designer clothes that made her that way, but an inner glow that radiated outward, enhancing her natural beauty.
She now sat on the top bar of the corral, watching the new instructor -- Andrew -- as he put El Cid, one of her father's two Andalusian stallions, through his paces.
Andrew had come highly recommended to Everett Prescott, just after Tyler, the former instructor, had resigned due to personal reasons.
When Elaine had first seen the tall blonde Andrew, he was standing in the imposing foyer of their large Georgian style home, waiting to speak to her father. She couldn't help but notice that he was stunning, with his blonde good looks, and yet there was a sensitivity she couldn't remember ever seeing in any other man. He seemed almost vulnerable standing there, yet he radiated an undeniable strength, as well. Elaine loved a paradox!
Boldly, Elaine walked up to him, her hand extended. "Hi, I'm Elaine Prescott. May I help you?" she asked, thinking again how striking he was.
Andrew took her hand in his, smiling in a way that brought out deep dimples, giving him an irresistibly boyish appearance. "Hello, Elaine. I'm Andrew. I'm here to see Everett Prescott about the position of riding instructor for the school."
"Oh," Elaine exclaimed. "You're here to take Tyler's position."
Andrew cocked his head slightly, a twinkle of fun in his green eyes. "Well, that will be for Mr. Prescott to decide."
"Mr. Prescott is my father, and Daddy is a pussy cat." she paused a moment, then queried, "Where have you taught Dressage before?"
"I was under the impression that I was going to be conducting this interview," came a voice from behind them. Andrew and Elaine both turned to see Everett Prescott -- a tall, distinguished man in his mid 60's with a wealth of silver hair -- descending the massive maple staircase. He finished his descent, and walked over to Elaine and Andrew, leaning heavily on a teakwood walking stick. He patted his obviously painful leg. "Old riding injury," he explained to Andrew. "You must be Andrew," he ventured in a friendly manner, extending his hand.
Andrew shook hands. "Yes, I am, sir."
"Good to meet you. Glad to see you found the place. Didn't have any trouble finding us, did you?" the older man inquired.
Andrew shook his head. "You're instructions were perfect. You have an incredible ranch, Mr. Prescott."
"Thank you, young man," Prescott nodded. "I see you have met my daughter, Elaine, who will now excuse us so we can go and talk about the position!"
Elaine grinned, and planted a kiss on her father's gaunt cheek. "I know when I'm being dismissed," she laughed.
"Maybe later, if all goes as I suspect it will, you can show Andrew around the place," her father added.
Elaine's stormy blue eyes met Andrew's green ones. "I'd be delighted," she smiled. "While you men talk business, I'll be out in the brood mare barn with Bella Donna. Frank says that she is due to foal at any time. It was good to have met you, Andrew, " she added.
"My pleasure, Miss Prescott," Andrew smiled back.
"Elaine," she corrected him, then left the room, Andrew's eyes following her retreat.
An hour later, Elaine left the brood mare barn to return to the house. She saw her father and Andrew coming down the lawns surrounding the house. They seemed to be laughing and chatting amicably. This was the first time Elaine had seen her father openly laugh in far too long.
"Elaine!" Everett Prescott hailed his daughter when he saw her.
Elaine trotted up to the two of them.
"Meet our new riding instructor, and your new personal trainer," Everett smiled. "Having thoroughly grilled this young man, and informing him of what he would be facing if he took on this job, he has still agreed to do so! We are most fortunate, Elaine. He is eminently qualified."
Elaine laughed. "You are, indeed, brave, Andrew," she said.
Andrew gave his head a quick toss, sending a stray forelock of blonde hair back off his forehead. "Not at all," he replied. "I'm sure it's going to be wonderful working here."
"Are you up to the Grande Tour, then?" she asked him.
"Lead on," he nodded.
"Be prepared," warned Mr. Prescott. "Elaine will drag you from pillar to post. I'd join you, but I am weary today, and intend to take a little nap." He turned to his daughter. "When you've finished with the tour, Elaine, bring Andrew back and we'll all have lunch together."
Again, Elaine kissed her father. "I won't keep him out too long," she said, and Everett Prescott watched as the two young people walked across the marble entry area and out the double front doors..........
That had been one week ago, Elaine thought as she watched Andrew dismount and lead the high-crested stallion over to where she perched on the top rail of the corral.
"That was amazing," she commented, dropping down from the fence to join Andrew. She marveled at the way the sun enhanced his near shoulder-length hair, bringing out the gold highlights. "No one ever rode El Cid the way you do!"
Andrew walked the gray towards the gate, as he said, "He just needs to learn who the boss is."
Elaine watched as Andrew opened the gate. He had incredible hands-- elegantly sculpted and long-fingered -- hands that were powerful, yet gentle on the reins.
"I'll get El Cid cooled down, and then maybe we can do some work in the inside arena," Andrew ventured.
"Oh," Elaine sighed, "do we have to work? It's such a beautiful afternoon. I thought that we could pack a picnic lunch and ride up to the north meadow."
Stopping, Andrew cast Elaine a skeptical glance. "And, just how badly do you want to be a member of the Olympic Equestrian Team this year?"
"I know...I should go practice, but the day is so glorious. The first true spring day we've had -- and winter was so hard this year. Please, Andrew. I promise that I'll practice all the harder when we get back," she implored.
"Well," Andrew began thoughtfully, "you can help me cool out El Cid and then, I suppose, we can take an hour off -- IF you promise that you'll get serious when we get back."
A smile lit up Elaine's attractive face. "You've got my promise! Let's go cool out Cid!"
A half hour later, Andrew and Elaine were in the huge kitchen of the Prescott home, while Elaine busily packed their picnic lunch.
As he watched her prepare the food, Andrew smelled the freshly fried chicken and the spicy potato salad, and suddenly felt true hunger for the first time ever.
"Andrew?" Elaine ventured.
"Uh -- yeah?" he hastened.
"I asked if you think we can smooth out Necromancer's lead changes. Are you okay?"
Andrew forced a charming and carefree grin. "Great! I'm great. Just really hungry. The food smells good."
She handed him a chicken leg and he took a large bite. He savored the tender treat. As he chewed, his eyes settled on Elaine again, watching as she moved around the kitchen industrially wrapping and packing the food in the picnic hamper. A sudden rush of feelings assaulted him, and he dropped the half-eaten chicken leg. There was no way to properly describe the mad rush of sensations that flooded through him as he visually took in the way her thick fall of shiny hair cascaded down her back and over her shoulders, and the almost liquid movements of her trim body.
Andrew gave his head a hard shake. What in the world was happening to him?
"Oh...you dropped your chicken," Elaine said.
"I'll get it," Andrew replied, and bent over to retrieve the food.
"I'll get you another one,"
"No...don't bother. I'll save my appetite for the picnic," he assured her.
Elaine examined the contents of the refrigerator. "Well, I've packed everything, except the drinks." she advised him. "Do you like lemonade or iced tea?"
"Tea is fine," he answered.
She took two bottles of Snapple iced tea out of the refrigerator, placing them carefully into the food hamper. Making a last inventory of the contents, she closed the basket. "All ready," she smiled.
Her eyes were dazzling, Andrew noticed. They truly glowed with life and fun.
"Shall we?" she asked, and Andrew took the basket by the wicker handles. "We can double-up on Majestad," she added.
Agreeing, Andrew allowed Elaine to lead the way out of the kitchen to the front hall, the exit that was closest to the barns.
"Well, you two," a voice coming from a side room said.
"Dad!" Elaine exclaimed, going to the older man and bestowing a kiss on his pale cheek.
Everett Prescott returned the kiss, and walked into the entry hall. "A picnic, I see."
"It's such a beautiful day. I'm dragging Andrew to the north meadow for a picnic lunch," Elaine explained,
"Please join us, sir," Andrew encouraged.
"Yes, Daddy...do," Elaine chimed in.
Everett Prescott chuckled. "I believe my days of dining al fresco have passed."
"Nonsense!" Elaine interjected. "We can take the jeep, and...,"
Everett shook his head, interrupting her protest. "No, you two go on and enjoy the day. I have papers to go over and I'm really not very hungry. Bring back some snowdrops for me," he added.
"Are you sure?" Andrew queried.
"Quite," Everett answered. "Go on now, and have a good time."
As they walked to the paddock, Elaine sighed. "He's having a bad day."
"Your father?" asked Andrew.
Elaine nodded. "He's...he's very ill."
Andrew frowned. Why hadn't he sensed this? Again he wondered what was happening to him. "How long has he been ill?" he then asked, trying not to let the surge of panic he was feeling enter his voice.
"About a year now," Elaine replied softly. "He was diagnosed with a virulent form of leukemia. The doctors have done all they can for him. It's -- just a matter of time now."
"I'm so sorry," Andrew offered with total sincerity, empathy coming to his gentle green eyes.
Elaine wiped tears off her cheeks. "He's ready to go," she told him. "Well, as much as anyone can be ready for death. He still has his good days, although they are becoming fewer and farther between. He doesn't want a fuss made. He wants to live as normally as possible for as long as he can. I try to be as strong as he is -- for his sake -- but...," here she shook her head, and more tears coursed down her cheeks.
Andrew opened the picnic basket and withdrew some napkins, which he handed to Elaine. She accepted them gratefully. "Thank you," she sniffed. "I'm sorry to sob all over you like this, but sometimes I just can't keep the tears inside."
"You've got every reason to cry," Andrew told her. "Having to put on a brave front for your father's sake is a noble action, but I'm sure it must be a very difficult thing to do. You have to have an outlet."
She smiled slightly. "I do a lot of sobbing into my pillow at night, " she admitted, then sighed deeply. "Enough of this. It's a picture-perfect day. Let's go and enjoy it. Do you want to put a halter on Maj, or should I."
Andrew handed her the hamper and entered the paddock with a rope halter. A red bay Andalusian stood in the middle of the paddock, watching Andrew carefully. Relying on all the experience he had had with horses over the centuries, Andrew skillfully haltered the horse and led him out of the enclosure.
Taking the hamper away from Elaine, he placed it on a near-by bench, then lifted Elaine up onto the horse's smooth, broad back, again experiencing the overwhelming flood of confusing and foreign sensations rushing through his body.
"Hand me the basket," Elaine said, and he did. He then swung up behind her on the horse, and took back the heavy basket.
"All ready?" Elaine asked, gathering the lead in her hand.
"Ready." he replied, settling himself.
Elaine turned the horse, and they took off for the upper meadow.
The north meadows were about a twenty-minute ride on horseback. Elaine and Andrew commented on the beautiful scenery as they rode. The verdant valley was surrounded by snow-frosted mountains. Aspen trees, alders, birch, and cottonwoods were growing their new leaves, and the flowering apple trees and cherry trees, flowered in stunning white and pink profusion.
"I know just the place to have our picnic," Elaine said, after they had been riding for some time. "It's just around the next turn of the trail...in that copse of cottonwoods."
They reached the place Elaine had in mind. It was a grassy area, dappled with the brilliant spring sunshine that poured down through the leaves of the cottonwood trees. A small stream snaked its way between the trees through the grassy area, burbling softly as it went, sliding over the stones in its path.
Andrew swung down first, taking the basket from Elaine, and setting it in a thick patch of new grass. He then reached up for Elaine. His long-fingered hands closed around her waist gently, and he eased her to the ground.
Once again the feelings claimed him...now even stronger than before.
"Why, thank you, sir," Elaine grinned. "I don't think any man has helped me off a horse since I first started riding at the age of five." Here she laughed, "Not that I would have let them! I was very independent!"
Regaining his composure, Andrew replied teasingly, "Well, I didn't mean to challenge your independence."
"It's about time someone did," she smiled. "At least, that's what my father is always saying! Come on, let's set things up under that big tree."
Andrew helped Elaine spread a tablecloth on the lush grass, and they then unloaded the contents of the basket. Along with the fried chicken and potato salad, there was fresh fruit salad, olives, celery sticks and homemade cookies for dessert.
Andrew found that he couldn't seem to stop eating. He was ravenously hungry, and everything smelled and tasted so delicious. Again, he wondered what had happened to him. A knot of fear was tightening in the pit of his stomach.
As they ate, they talked about many things...learning about one another as they did.
"So, where are you from, Andrew?" Elaine asked as Andrew helped himself to more fruit.
"Way north of here," was his guarded reply. He then quickly asked, "Have you always lived here?"
"Always," was her answer.
"And now is it just you and your father?" he continued.
"Yes," Elaine nodded. "My mother died when I was four."
Andrew's eyes softened perceptibly. "I'm sorry, Elaine. You must miss her very much."
Elaine sighed. "Actually, I don't remember her very well. I was so young at the time. But...I have a few special memories of her that have stayed with me."
"Tell me about them," Andrew encouraged.
Elaine smiled slightly, remembering her mother. "She would read to me," she began. "I remember The Velveteen Rabbit. I would make her read it over and over again. It was my favorite book. She paused, then said, "I still have it."
Andrew nodded thoughtfully. "That is certainly a wonderful memory to have,: he replied finally.
"She used to sing to me, too," Elaine continued. "She knew so many songs and lullabies, and she had a voice like an angel's."
Andrew had to stifle a chuckle as he thought of Monica's tone deaf warbling. "What songs do you remember her singing?"
Elaine had a faraway smile on her lips, as she said, "I remember her singing All The Pretty Little Horses. That was the song I loved most."
"Have you always loved horses?" Andrew ventured.
"Always, yes," Elaine replied, then said, "you know, this may sound weird, but I believe my mother watches me -- you know -- from Heaven. I like to think that she's my guardian angel." She looked at Andrew. "Does that sound crazy?
Shaking his head, Andrew replied, "Not at all."
"You believe in Heaven, then?" she asked. "and angels?"
" Most definitely," he answered.
"Enough about my childhood," Elaine said lightly. "Tell me about yours. Are your parents still living?"
"It's just my Father," Andrew told her, thinking fast.
"What does he do?" Elaine queried with interest.
Clearing his throat, Andrew paused for a moment and then said, "He's in public relations...on an international level. Upper management"
"What company does he work for?" she pressed.
"Um....you probably never heard of it. It's called... Celestial Universal."
"Do you see him often? Elaine asked.
Reaching for another cookie, Andrew said, "I go Home quite often, when my schedule permits." He bit into the cookie. "Mmmmmmm," he remarked, "that's really good."
Elaine handed him the plate. "Here, have some more. It's so wonderful having someone appreciate my cooking."
"Doesn't your father appreciate it?"
She shook her head. "He eats very little now. He doesn't have much of an appetite anymore. He used to be my biggest fan when I cooked."
Hearing the sorrow in Elaine's voice, Andrew wished that he could help ease the pain he could feel she was in. "Elaine," he began gently, "Your father is walking a rough road right now, but The Father of Us All walks each and every step of the way with him, and at the end of this road is another life...a life without pain -- a life of peace and total joy."
Elaine seemed to contemplate what he had said, then retorted, "Andrew, when my father dies, he'll be buried in the family cemetery, right next to my mother, and I'll never see him again. I'll be all alone!"
Andrew sat with knees pulled to his chest, his arms wrapped around them. "You're wrong, Elaine. Death is not an end...it is a beginning! What you will bury in the family cemetery is a shell -- an empty shell that returns to dust. The thing that makes your father the loving and kind man he is, the father you love, is his spirit...his soul...and that part of him will be with God, in Heaven. Then, one day, God will call you Home, and your father and mother will both be waiting to greet you, along with everyone else you've known and loved throughout your lifetime."
Elaine twirled a long blade of emerald grass between her fingers. "You know all this for a fact, do you?" she asked doubtfully.
"I have Faith," was his reply. "God gave us all many promises in His Word. One of these promises, is that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord. I also believe that 'God is not a man to lie'."
"But, how can we know all of this for sure?" she challenged.
Andrew considered this, then said, "You believe by your Faith. Faith is the subject of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."
"Faith...," Elaine sighed as she stood up. She looked around thoughtfully. "Faith is not always easy to hang onto."
Getting up also, Andrew stretched his long frame, then replied, "Not really. You practice acts of Faith every day, many times each day, as a matter of fact."
She looked skeptically at him. "You're going to have to explain that one to me,"
With a shrug, Andrew began, "Every morning, when you wake up, you slide your feet over the edge of the bed, and put them down, in the FAITH that there is going to be a solid floor under you to hold you up when you stand. That -- in its own way -- is an act of Faith. You go to shower, and turn the handles in the shower, in the Faith that water is going to come pouring out. These are simplistic examples, but they do illustrate Faith, of some sort. A Faith you maintain each and every day."
Elaine nodded. "I never thought of it that way, but you're right, I suppose. But I will be alone when Father goes."
"You don't have brothers or sisters?" he asked.
"No...it's just Father and me," she answered.
They walked slowly together towards the stream, and Andrew picked up a handful of tiny pebbles and began to toss them into the crystal clear water. "You will never be alone, Elaine," he finally told her.
"You mean.....God?" she ventured.
"Yes," he nodded. "He will never leave you or forsake you. But, aside from that, I don't believe that you won't find someone to settle down with and have a family with. There is a full and happy future ahead for you...I'm certain. You will never be alone, Elaine," he finished.
For a time, they stood together, just listening to the songs of the birds and the crystalline music of the stream.
"Andrew?" Elaine began, then. "May I ask you a personal question?"
"I don't see why not. I'll answer anything, if I possible can," was his reply.
"Are you married?"
Tossing another pebble into the water. "No," he said. "My work takes me to places all over the world, for long periods of time. Marriage just isn't possible."
"Don't you miss having a home and family to come back to?" she pressed. "A place to settle down and be happy?"
The sun pouring down through the leafy holes in the green canopy above them dappled his blonde hair with spots of liquid gold. "Home is where the heart is," he said. "Where my Father is."
"I'm sorry for asking that, Andrew. I didn't mean to pry into your private life," she apologized sincerely.
He turned and gave her that smile that tied her stomach in knots. No other man she had ever known had made her feel as she now did. "Hey," he replied, "I'm not offended."
Andrew was finding that he was truly aware of the aroma of new grass, the perfume of the apple and cherry blossoms, the clean fragrance of the pine on the breeze -- the impact of the magnificent beauty around him -- as he had never been before. But, more than that, he was intensely aware of the closeness of the young woman beside him. He could smell the light lilac scent she wore, and the clean smell of her long, auburn hair as the breeze played through it. He knew then, for a certainty, that the Father had -- for some reason -- reduced him to mortal status! The realization of this caused him a feeling of panic he had never experienced before.
Elaine glanced over only to see Andrew looking around anxiously. "Are you all right?" she ventured with concern?
He forced himself to bring the rising surge of panic under some semblance of control, and endeavored to sound normal, as he replied, "Oh...I'm fine." He managed a smile. "I was just thinking that, as pleasant as this has been, we really should get back and start your practice."
Elaine's face fell. "So soon?" she complained.
"You promised," he reminded her, his eyebrow slightly raised.
She sighed deeply. "Yes.. I did promise, didn't I?"
"I know that you are a woman who stands by her word," he put in, regarding her quixotically.
Elaine nodded, "You're right. This has just been so nice. But I guess I've been hoisted on my own petard."
Laughing, Andrew joined her as they walked to where the picnic had been, helped her pack up the things, and led her over to where the horse grazed contentedly.
"May we do this again?" she ventured, after Andrew had lifted her onto the horse, and handed her the now much lighter picnic basket.
"You won't get any fight from me," he teased good naturedly, and they took off down the road that led them towards home.
As they road back, Andrew again found himself dealing with the foreign feelings he was now experiencing any time he was close to Elaine. The sensations were also overwhelming, and he knew that what he was experiencing was mortal desire...the desire of a man for a woman, and he wasn't at all prepared to deal with this! He then resolved that he would stay away from Elaine -- picnics and any non-work situations -- where the two of them might be close, and alone together.
As an angel, he had never felt like a "man". Now he did. God -- for whatever reason -- had made him totally human, but Andrew was certain that this condition was temporary, and didn't include any sort of "relationship".
As the two road towards the ranch, they passed a copse of pine, where Monica -- unseen to the riders -- watched.
"And just what are you doing here, Miss Wings?"
Monica jumped slightly, and saw Tess just behind her, glowering with disapproval. "You startled me, Tess!" she exclaimed.
"Didn't you hear me when I told you that we have no business keeping track of Andrew right now? Exactly what part of 'stay out of it!' did you not understand?" Tess clipped.
"I am not interfering." Monica countered. "Just watching, from a distance."
Tess scowled. "This assignment doesn't call for surveillance!"
"But, Andrew is so confused," Monica interjected emotionally. "Tess, I remember so vividly how I felt when The Father made me a mortal. I was frightened and felt totally alone and completely lost! I felt abandoned. You should have seen his face, Tess! He is truly upset. He realizes what has happened now, and he just doesn't know why this has happened." She looked imploringly at Tess. "Oh, Tess. Can't we just go to him and offer him a word of comfort?"
Shaking her head, Tess retorted, "I know how you feel, baby. I love Andrew, too, and I know he is going through a very hard time right now. But the Father doesn't want us to step in now. Not now!"
"Uh uh...no 'buts'! You just keep your little angel butt away from the ranch, and from Andrew, until you hear otherwise from me." Tess told her sternly.
Monica looked defeated.
"Sweetie, we are here for Andrew, if he gets into some kind of trouble he can't handle. But our job is to stand by, until we get His word to step in."
"Tess, I think Andrew is getting very fond of Elaine," Monica said then.
Putting her arm around Monica's shoulders, Tess replied, "Elaine is a smart, kind, compassionately and lovely young lady, and right now Andrew is a healthy human man. He's bound to be dealing with aspects of chemistry -- something he never had to deal with before, as an angel. Chemistry is natural, and plays a large part in the lives of most humans," she finished.
Monica shuddered. "Tess...this could become very complicated."
"Time will tell, baby," Tess comforted softly, "Time will tell."
"Keep your hands still!" Andrew called to Elaine as she guided a large black horse through a series of figure "8's" in the indoor arena. "I can see your left hand working. Use the knees, not the hands!"
Elaine made the correction as she continued to ride.
"Better," Andrew told her. "Much better."
At that point, the horse -- Necromancer -- neglected to change leads as he negotiated the turn. "Okay," Andrew called, "He missed the lead change. Come on in."
Elaine trotted the horse over to where Andrew stood, in the middle of the arena. "I know...I felt it," she said, and leaned over to solidly pat the animal on his high-crested neck.
Andrew took hold of the reins. "I think he's getting tired. We've been at it over 2 1/2 hours, that's pretty intense. Let's cool him out and give him a half a quart of oats."
Bringing her left leg over the front of the saddle, Elaine slid easily to the ground. "That sounds good to me. That was a real workout."
"You're riding much smoother," Andrew commented, as they walked to the door of the arena.
Smiling, Elaine remarked, "Well, you've certainly been keeping us very busy. With the exception of the last time, when he got sloppy with the lead change, Necromancer has really improved. I can really feel a big difference."
"Well," Andrew replied, "You've been working hard...work hard, you get results."
They walked in silence for a moment, then Elaine said, "There's a big barn dance at the Morrison ranch tomorrow night."
Andrew asked, "Do they live close by? I've heard their name mentioned by your father."
"Our place is so large that NOBODY lives 'close', but the Morrisons are the first ranch south of us, and we think of them as our closest neighbors. Jack Morrison raises Quarter Horses and cattle. He and my father have been friends since they were boys. They grew up together, and their fathers were good friends. The Morrisons give wonderful parties and it's a custom that they give a huge barn dance each spring and another one on the Fourth of July. We entertain at Christmas and at harvest time," Elaine finished.
"Sounds like fun," Andrew commented.
"Oh, it is! The spring barn dance is the social event of the season around here. Everyone is invited. They also have an indoor arena, and they bring in a band and a square dance caller. They have tables heaped with all kinds of great food, and they put down a hardwood floor for dancing. It's great fun!"
They had reached the stables, and Andrew removed Necromancer's bridle, replacing it with a rope halter, as Elaine took off the English saddle and saddle pad.
Throwing a cool-out sheet over the black, Andrew secured it.
"I...was...wondering if you'd like to go to the barn dance with me," Elaine ventured.
Pausing, Andrew regarded her. More than anything he wanted to go-- but the reactions and emotions he had been experiencing around her were almost more than he could handle in his human state.
"I'm sorry," Elaine quickly said. "That must really forward."
"Not at all," Andrew replied with a smile. "It sounds like a lot of fun, and I'd be happy to go with you," he replied. He didn't know why he had agreed -- except that something inside of him didn't want her to feel uncomfortable for having asked him, and there was the fact that he really did want to go. As an angel, he would have declined gracefully. As a mortal, however, he had no such resolve...nor inclination!
"I've put you in an awkward and, I'm afraid, embarrassing position," she continued ruefully. "I truly didn't mean to do that. You feel that you have to oblige me because my father is your employer. I'm sorry, Andrew...I was out of line," she finished sincerely.
"Hey," he said softly. "I do know how to say 'no' if I don't want to do something. I'll be delighted to go to the barn dance with you, Elaine. It sounds wonderful, and I can't imagine more charming company."
"Really?" she asked.
He smiled. "Really!"
It was now Elaine's turn to smile. "You have very becoming dimples," she said.
"You know how dimples happen, don't you?" he queried.
"Well, when a baby is ready to leave Heaven and go down to Earth to be with its parents, an angel gives the child a kiss -- one on each cheek -- and where that baby was kissed, dimples appear!"
Elaine looked at him out of the tops of her eyes. "You know this for a fact," she teased.
"Of course!" he grinned. "Now, it's time to walk this guy, and then give him a good grooming. He worked hard today, and deserves a good pampering."
"True enough," Elaine agreed. Inside, she was rejoicing!
The following day, Elaine took her father into town to see one of his doctors. As they drove along, Everett asked, "Am I wrong in assuming that you are growing rather fond of our Andrew?"
Elaine felt her cheeks redden. "He's my trainer, Dad," she answered.
"Yes, and also a very good instructor. I have received nothing but raves about him from many of our students and their families. But, I am referring to the way you seem to light up like a Christmas tree every time you are around him. I may be getting on in years, Elaine, but I can still recognize when someone is smitten, as we used to say in the old days," he finished.
Elaine sighed. "I admit that I like Andrew -- but he has his own life and...,"
"I know," Everett interjected. "And you have yours."
"Exactly," she nodded.
Everett Prescott laughed softly.
"And just what do you find so very amusing?" she queried.
"Seeing you in denial," was his reply.
Casting her father a sideways glance, Elaine said, "Someone's been reading too many psychology books! Am I to be charged for this session?" she quipped lightly, and they both laughed.
When Elaine and Everett returned to the ranch, Elaine made lunch, since the housekeeper had the day off, and set things up so that they could eat on the verandah, with a view of the gardens that were just coming into bloom.
As soon as all was ready, Elaine called to her father, and then went looking for Andrew. She found him in the brood mare barn, in the stall with La Donna, one of their best mares. La Donna had just given birth to her foal, and was washing it industriously, and trying to nudge the spindly little one to its feet.
Andrew looked around, and saw Elaine standing at the entrance of the stall. "Look what just came!" he smiled.
"Oh, Andrew! He looks perfect!" Elaine exclaimed. "It is a 'he', isn't it?" she ventured.
"Yes," Andrew replied.
"And he's black!" she said.
"Well,", Andrew began, "at least for now. You know that black Andalusians sometimes turn gray and even white as they age."
Elaine shook her head. "No -- his father is Necromancer, and every foal he has sired has been black and stayed a true black. Is Donna all right? Did the vet come?"
"We called him just after you left," he told her. "The birth was fast and easy, and the vet checked out both the mom and the baby and pronounced them both well and fit. Since he left, the groom and I have been keeping an eye on them. He's been on his feet twice, and he got tired. She's trying to get him up to feed him," Andrew said.
Suddenly, the foal struggled onto his long, spindly legs. At first he wobbled unsteadily, but then he seemed to get his bearings, and his mother nudged him to where he found his first meal. With tiny wickers of delight, the little foal drank.
"He's going to be a beauty," Elaine exclaimed.
"He's a miracle," Andrew agreed, "like all new life."
"I want to just stay here all day and watch him," Elaine said, "but I have lunch ready on the verandah. I'll bet you're hungry after all of this," she added.
"I could force myself," he chuckled.
Taking one more look at the mare and foal, Andrew and Elaine went back to the house to have lunch.
"Did I tell you that the party tonight is Western dress?" Elaine asked as they crossed the wide expanse of lawn.
"Uh...no. You neglected to inform me of that," Andrew replied.
"Oh...I'm sorry. If you need to get something, they have a great Western wear shop in town. You can leave right after lunch."
Andrew nodded. "I guess I'll have to, if I don't want to look out of place tonight. Fortunately, I had a lesson cancellation this morning, and I'm free until three."
"I apologize for not telling you, Andrew. Who called to cancel?" she asked then.
"Lisa Morrison," he replied.
"Well, " Elaine said, "That's certainly understandable. She no doubt is helping to get ready for the dance."
Andrew looked teasingly at Elaine. "Anything else you've neglected to fill me in on about tonight?"
She looked thoughtful. "If I think of anything, I'll tell you," she laughed. "I'll race you to the verandah!" she then challenged, and they both took off running.
They all had lunch, then Andrew took the ranch pick-up into town to shop for a Western outfit for that evening.
As he drove back to the ranch, he again began to think about his situation. "Tess?....Monica?" he called. "Are you here? Can you hear me?" There was no answer.
Finally, Andrew said, "Father, I know that you have a reason for all of this, and I accept what you have caused to happen to me. I pray that you grant me the wisdom to learn what it is you want me to learn from all of this, and that, as a result, I can better serve you. Living as a human is far more complex and confusing that I ever imagined it would be. I put myself in your hands, Father -- now, and always -- in obedience and Faith."
Elaine looked at the outfit she had laid out on her bed. There was a pair of white Levi's, a red Western style satin shirt, a pair of white Tony Lama hand-tooled boots, a white Stetson, and a wisp of a red silk scarf to tie around her throat.
She was really excited about going to the dance with Andrew. Her father had been absolutely right: she was becoming very fond of the tall, elegant riding instructor...very fond.
It wasn't just that Andrew was the most physically stunning man she had ever seen. It went way beyond that. There was something about him...a gentleness, a compassion, a sort of other-worldliness, that made him stand far apart from the other males she knew. He made her feel comfortable and totally at ease -- although, all the while, -- when they were together -- there was turmoil going on inside of her.
A brisk knock came at her closed bedroom door. "Yes?" she called.
"Honey, it's Vera," came a voice from behind the door. Vera had been housekeeper for the Prescotts since Elaine's mother passed away, and now she was more a part of the family...more a mother to Elaine than a housekeeper.
"Oh! Come on in, Vera!" Elaine called back, and the door opened and in walked a woman in her mid sixties, with graying brown hair and a tall but solid build. She had kind eyes, and laugh lines at the corners, telling of her good humor. Elaine hugged her at once.
"I missed you!" Elaine said.
"I've only been gone two days, child! Land sakes! Such a fuss!" Vera replied. She then handed Elaine a gold box she had brought in with her. "This came for you just now, " she explained.
Elaine took the box from Vera, regarding it questioningly. "I wonder what this is?" she mused.
"Well, you aren't going to find out just gawking at it," Vera told her. "Go on and open it!"
Carefully taking off the lace edged gold ribbon, Elaine then opened the box. Inside, nestled on a bed of light pink tissue, was one perfect white Gardenia, mounted as a corsage. Next to the flower, was a gift card. Elaine placed the box on her bed, and read the card. It read: "This reminded me of you. Looking forward to tonight" it was signed simply, "A".
"It's from Andrew, isn't it?" Vera inquired.
"Yes," Elaine replied. "We're going to the dance together tonight at the Morrison's. It was so sweet of him to send me a corsage," she said softly.
"Well, if you ask me, I think that young man would be a fine catch!!" Vera put in. "He's handsome as they come, he's a gentleman, and he knows how to treat a lady."
Elaine tried to hide her blush. "Honestly, Vera!" she countered. "We haven't even had a date!"
"Well, tonight's a date, isn't it? The Morrison's shindig is the most exciting event of the year around here." She regarded the outfit laid out on the bed. "You'll be looking pretty snappy, too," she added.
Elaine laughed. "Vera, you're too much."
Giving Elaine one more hug, Vera grinned, "Just you have a good time," and she left the room, closing the door behind her.
Looking back at the box that sat on the bed, Elaine lifted the delicate flower carefully off of the tissue paper. The heady fragrance of the flower filled the room. Could anything be more perfect? She placed the gardenia back in the box and re-read the card. What a lovely thing to write, she thought, then happened to glance at the clock on her nightstand. She and Andrew had agreed to meet in the living room at 7 PM sharp. She had ten minutes to finish getting ready.
Elaine began to dress. She already had done her long auburn hair, leaving it long and silky, and had applied the little make-up she used. She hated the feel of thick make-up, and only used a tiny bit to enhance her own natural beauty.
As she dressed, Elaine thought of how -- at that very moment -- Andrew was getting ready just down the hall. He had been given the largest of the three guestrooms, located across the hall and four rooms down from Elaine's.
When she finished dressing, Elaine surveyed the result in a full-length mirror in the corner of her room. The lovely chevel glass had been a gift from her father to her mother just after they had been married, and had come all the way from France. Elaine cherished it. She studied her image in the mirror, and what looked back at her was a beautiful woman with a graceful body, looking very especially good in the white Levi's, the boots and the bright splash of red in the red shirt and scarf. Elaine didn't see herself quite as others did, however, and was merely just satisfied with the results achieved.
She sighed, and again taking up the corsage, carefully pinned it on her shirt. She had once heard that touching the petals of a gardenia would cause them to turn brown in a short time. With one last glance in the mirror, Elaine picked up her purse and went down the stairs to the living room.
As it happened, Elaine was the first to enter the living room. Her father had bid her good night before she went up to get ready, and wished her a wonderful time. Lately, Everett Prescott had taken to retiring just after dinner, to read and then fall asleep early. No more did the two of them go riding on Saturday afternoons, or play Trivial Pursuit, Chess or Monopoly after supper. She missed those times, and knew that they would never come again. The disease was taking her father from her, day-by-day, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
"Ready to go?"
With a start, Elaine whirled around to see Andrew leaning against the doorjamb casually, watching her.
"Howdy, ma'am," he said with a slow smile, touching the rim of his Stetson.
Elaine couldn't hold back a slight gasp. He was incredible! He was dressed in black -- black Levi's, black cowboy boots, and black long-sleeved silk shirt. But, his soft unadorned leather vest was white, as was his Stetson hat, and his string tie. The tie "slide" was made of silver, and formed an oval frame for the onyx cabochon mounted in the middle. Elaine was temporarily rendered speechless.
In the meantime, Andrew's green eyes were moving slowly over Elaine's outfit. "May I say, Ma'am," he drawled softly, "that you are prettier than dawn at evening!"
Elaine fought for composure. "And you..." she managed, "look better than Roy Rogers, who was once the one and only love of my life. I think we've found a new King of the Cowboys."
Andrew shook his head. "Never. I could never fill the boots of Roy Rogers, but you certainly put Dale Evans to shame, and that's a fact!" he grinned.
"Andrew, I want to thank you for the lovely corsage. It's just perfect," she then added.
"My pleasure," he nodded.
"You know," Elaine then began,"There was something I never asked you."
"Ask away," he replied.
"I never asked you if you know how to dance."
Andrew raised one eyebrow in an amused manner. "Well, we'll see, won't we?"
"I guess so," was her reply.
He offered her his arm, in a way she found enchanting. "Shall we go?" he queried.
Taking his arm, Elaine said, "Yes, let's," and they made their way to the truck that Andrew had washed and polished, and that was awaiting them right outside.
The Morrison ranch was certainly ready for a party! The indoor arena was covered with strings of white lights, and inside, it resembles a Christmas tree, with strings of multi-colored lights draped on the wall, tables and everywhere that could handle them! On a large riser, a Country Western band played, and there were table laden with all types of delectable foods and libations. Hanging over the hardwood dance floor was a gigantic mirrored ball, that send flashing lights -- of all colors -- sparkling over everything.
As the band played "Jambalaya", more than 60 couples danced, while at least 150 more, mingled around, talking, laughing, eating and drinking. A party this was, indeed, and everyone seemed to be having an extraordinary time.
Andrew parked the pick-up in an area that had been set aside for parking, and got out and started to go around to open the door for Elaine. When he got to her side, however, he saw her already leaving the truck. She looked up at him.
"Were you actually coming to open my door for me?" she queried.
"One of my old-fashioned peculiarities," he grinned, shutting the door behind her.
As Elaine started to go forward, the tip of her boot caught a small stone, and she stumbled slightly. Andrew grabbed her arm, preventing her from falling.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"I feel stupid," she laughed, "but I'm fine."
"It's dark out here," he warned. "You have to be careful." Here, he took her hand in his, and Elaine almost passed out as she felt his long, sculpted fingers close snugly around her much smaller hand.
They continued to walk to the arena, passing Tess and Monica, who stood -- invisible to all -- just to one side of the main entrance.
"Andrew is on a date, Tess!" Monica said seriously.
"I'm not blind, baby -- I can see," Tess replied.
"Don't ya think this is all getting just a wee bit out of hand?" pressed Monica.
"I still haven't had instructions that we are to step in here," Tess told her. "Besides, this could be just a case of two friends going to a community barn dance. They aren't exactly slipping off to the woods, or anything." Here Tess's eyes followed Andrew and Elaine as they disappeared through the entrance in to the massive arena. "But don't our angel boy look fine in his Western duds!"
Monica heaved a frustrated sigh. "Have you watched them together, Tess?" she asked then. "They laugh and tease one another, and Andrew watches her...,"
"No!" Tess said firmly. "I haven't watched them together, because watching them is not our job!"
"Andrew has a carnal streak, Tess, and angels aren't supposed to be carnal!" countered Monica.
"Angel girl, all mortal men have a carnal streak, and right now, our Andrew is a mortal, like it or not. If mortal males didn't have that streak of carnality, the human race would die out in just about a hundred years!"
Monica looked distressed. "This cannot be Andrew's destiny, can it? He was created to be an angel!" she protested softly.
"And who says that he isn't going to go right on being one?" Tess challenged. "God has his plan, and things will happen as He means them to happen -- as they should happen -- in HIS good time! Now, I shouldn't have to be having this conversation with another angel!" reprimanded Tess.
Hanging her head a bit, Monica replied, "I know, Tess. It's just that Andrew is a part of us -- and, right now, I feel that he is standing on the other side of a huge wall that has suddenly come between us. It's a very strange and disturbing feeling."
Tess hugged Monica to her, stroking her hair gently, as she soothed, "I know, baby...but it won't be like this forever. For now, just 'stand'. Have Faith in the Lord and stand. Remember, 'They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles!' That goes for angels, too."
Monica hugged Tess back. "I love you, Tess."
"And I love you, angel girl."
"Wow," Andrew remarked as he and Elaine entered the indoor arena. He looked at the couples dancing the Texas Two-Step on the hardwood dance floor, the tables of delicious smelling barbecue, salads, desserts and other goodies. He heard the music, and it definitely made him want to tap his toe. The place was a whirl of color, good smells, lights and great music.
"I told you that the Morrisons throw great parties," Elaine said.
"Why....Elaine Prescott!!" A young woman, about Elaine's age, wearing skin-tight jeans and a very skimpy halter-top and heels, came wriggling up to Elaine and Andrew. She had platinum hair, which she wore pulled back in a ponytail, and she appeared to have applied her make-up with a heavy hand...if not a pallet knife!
"Hi, Daphne," Elaine greeted, forcing a smile. She had gone to high school with the fake blonde, and knew that Daphne was going to be honing in on Andrew very soon. Daphne collected men, and Andrew -- after all -- was a handsome new male face.
Daphne air-kissed each of Elaine's cheeks, while her eyes were fixed voraciously on Andrew.
"Elaine," Daphne then said. "I haven't met this stunning gentleman yet," she purred, regarding Andrew as if he were a chocolate eclair.
Elaine looked resigned as she said, "Andrew, this is Daphne. Daphne, this is Andrew, our new riding instructor."
Before Elaine could finish the introduction, Daphne grabbed Andrew by the hand. "You are divine, Andrew!" she gushed. "And, you are going to dance with me!"
Andrew carefully disengaged himself from Daphne and her deadly fingernails. "I'll be glad to save you a dance, Daphne," he said, "but I believe that the first dance, at least, belongs to the one you came with." Here, he extended his hand to Elaine. "Shall we?" he asked.
Elaine took his hand. "Delighted," she smiled, and looked at Daphne, who was regarding her angrily. "Catch ya later, Daphne," Elaine called, and let Andrew lead her onto the dance floor.
Andrew twirled Elaine under his arm three times, then went on to guide her through a lively Texas Two-Step.
Elaine was stunned. He wasn't just a good dancer, he was marvelous! "Well!" she exclaimed. "Now I have the answer to the question I asked you before we left."
"What question was that?" he prompted.
"The one where I asked you if you could dance," she replied.
"Stop being coy...you can!"
"Well, then let's stop this chit chat and get to some serious dancing," he said and gave her another twirl.
They next joined in the line dance for the following two songs, and then another Texas Two-Step. The band then changed pace, and began their version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy".
Andrew gently drew Elaine into his arms, guiding her easily around the dance floor.
"You sure are good, cowboy," she grinned. "Where did you learn to dance like this?"
"Oh....here and there," was his reply, and Elaine felt his soft breath on her cheek as he spoke. As close as they were, he still wasn't holding her against himself, and Elaine wished that he would. He looked fantastic -- not that he didn't always -- and he was wearing an after shave, or men's cologne, that she had never smelled before. It was very subtle and underplayed, and absolutely perfect for Andrew. She was dizzy with the nearness of him.
"Heck," Elaine said to herself. "I'm a modern woman -- I can take the initiative and move closer." But it wouldn't be the same. She wanted Andrew to be the one to pull her closer. Somehow, it wouldn't be as special if she made the move.
She saw Andrew looking questioningly at her. "Where'd you go?" he asked gently.
Elaine smiled slightly, "Just enjoying the music, and the dance," she told him, "And the company."
"Ma'am, you sure know how to turn a humble cowboy's head," he teased, and gave her his "killer" smile, dimples and all.
Reaching up, Elaine touched one fingertip to one of his dimples. "That angel really laid one on you," she observed, recalling the tale he had told her about dimples. "So, what do you think of Daphne?"
Andrew hesitated, then replied, "She's -- uh -- very friendly, isn't she?"
"To say the least!" Elaine nodded. "She's always been like that. She was that way in high school. She was the -- how do I put it delicately....,?"
"I get the picture," Andrew put in.
"She certainly zeroed in on you fast enough," Elaine commented.
"Guess she likes a man in a white hat," chuckled Andrew.
The song changed to another slow one, "Texas on My Mind", and Elaine and Andrew continued to dance, not pausing between.
Andrew had carefully forced himself to maintain what he considered a "respectable" distance between them as they danced. But as the dance continued, this resolve was eroding fast! Elaine felt so good in his arms, and everything inside of him wanted him to hold her, like most of the other males on the dance floor were holding their wives and dates...fast against themselves.
He looked into Elaine's eyes, and somehow knew that she wanted the same thing. What would be wrong with holding her closer, he asked himself? It would certainly be acceptable in that social setting.
Slowly, Andrew moved the hand that he rested between her shoulder blades, down to the curve of her lower back. That done, he gently drew her against him.
Elaine's eyes flew to Andrew's and, for a moment, she had to actually will herself to breathe!
"Okay?" he asked her, meaningfully.
"Of course," she managed to reply.
Not even thinking about what she was about to do, Elaine let her arms slide up around his neck.
Andrew responded by letting his now-free hand join his other on the small of her back. Briefly, his eyes closed as yet more intense feeling engulfed him. He had never experienced anything like this...never!
Earlier that evening, Monica had asked Tess if they could go to the barn dance to "observe". "I've never been to a barn dance," Monica enthused.
"And the only reason you're so interested in going now, is that you know Andrew and Elaine will be there," Tess said knowingly.
Monica shook her head. "No, Tess! This will be a learning experience for me. You know that Sam is always encouraging me to have 'new experiences' and to 'broaden my horizons' to learn more about humans and their customs. Just think of it as a field trip!" she coaxed hopefully.
"A 'field trip' indeed!" Tess scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"Oh please, Tess! It sounds like such fun!"
With a sigh of resignation Tess replied, "All right -- but we stay unseen....and," here she gave Monica a leveling glance, "we stay away from Andrew and Elaine!"
"Done!" Monica agreed, and clasped her hands together with joy.
Now, at the dance, Tess and Monica -- unseen by anyone attending the festivities -- walked around enjoying the crowd, the music and the food.
"What have I told you about eating too much food?" Tess grumbled as she watched Monica tear into another barbecued spare rib.
Monica looked at her, barbecue sauce at the corners of her mouth, smiling from ear to ear. "But, Tess! This is absolutely delicious!"
"First of all, you are becoming obsessive about eating...and, secondly...stop sucking on your fingers! That's just terrible!" Tess scowled with distaste.
"Why?" Monica retorted, "No one can see me."
"I can!" Tess rejoined.
Monica then said, "Relax...enjoy the party. Here, have some of this wonderful potato salad!" Monica was about to go back to her rib, when her eyes fell on Andrew and Elaine slow-dancing. She saw how Andrew was holding Elaine, and how Elaine's arms were wound around his neck. "Tess!" she gasped, abandoning her plate of food.
"What is it now, Miss Wings?"
"Look..there!" Monica pointed to the couple on the dance floor.
Tess looked. "What about it?"
"Just look how he's holdin' her!"
"Yes, I see. It's very close," Tess agreed. "However, if you look at all the other couples on the floor, you'll see that they are holding one another just as close...if not closer!"
"But, Tess...," Monica implored.
Tess glared over at Monica. "Read my mind!"
With a sigh, Monica said, "Stay out of it."
"I suggest that we leave this soiree right now," Tess put in, "before you loose control over yourself and get into trouble...as usual!"
Nodding, Monica and Tess faded into the colors and the sounds of the dance.
The slow dance ended, and for a moment, Elaine and Andrew stood holding one another, looking into each other's eyes. It was then that Daphne made her move.
"I believe this is my dance, Andy," she said, tapping him on the shoulder.
Elaine and Andrew both looked at Daphne, who now stood hip-shot, hands on hips, regarding them impatiently. "You've done your time with the one you came with. Now it's my turn....yes?"
Andrew looked helplessly at Elaine, who gave him a smile and stepped back. "You two dance. I'm going to get a root beer."
As Elaine walked away, Daphne took Andrew's hand and led him into the Two-Step that the band just started playing.
"I was watching you," Daphne informed him. "You really are a heavenly dancer! I just couldn't wait any longer to claim my dance!"
Casting her a weak, and forced, smile, Andrew didn't reply. He just didn't care for this overbearing female at all! This feeling of such dislike was also foreign to him. As an angel, he may have disliked many of the human actions, but he never personally disliked any human.
"So, Andy...where have you been all my life?" Daphne purred.
"Here and there," he replied, then said, "I really prefer to be called Andrew."
She smiled, "Well, then Andrew it is. I know that there is no one like you in this town, and that's for sure!" she added. "So, tell me -- Andrew -- how long have you been working as riding instructor at the Prescotts?"
As he answered her question, Andrew was glad that the dance was a fast one. He then thought back to the last dance he had had with Elaine. If Daphne hadn't arrived on the scene, he most likely would have kissed Elaine -- right then and there, in the middle of the dance floor.
"Andrew?" Daphne's sugary voice brought him out of his reverie.
"Yes?" he asked distantly.
"It's so hot in here...how about a walk in the moonlight?"
The dance had ended, and Andrew stepped away. "Well, Daphne...that's a nice thought, but I promised Elaine I'd meet her over at the buffet tables, and to tell you the truth, I'm starved. So, if you'll forgive me, I'll just go on over there. I thank you for the dance," he added.
"It's been great," Andrew called back over his shoulder, and hurried over to the buffet tables, where Elaine happened to be waiting.
"Quick," he told her, "let's get some food!" He drew her up to the tables, and handed her a plate, then took one for himself.
"What's this all about?" Elaine -- bemused -- asked.
Andrew was piling his plate with food as he said, "Well, for one thing, I'm hungry. And, for another, I just got away from Daphne by telling her that I had arranged to meet you at the buffet tables. She's watching us now."
Elaine nodded. "Let's eat."
Andrew regarded his plate, heaped with barbecue and salads, and sighed, "I really have to start cutting down and get control of my appetite!" Having said this, he picked up a rib dripping with barbecue sauce, and bit into it with relish.
The two of them were sitting at one of a vast number of white tables and chairs set up at the back of the arena, to accommodate those who were enjoying the buffet offerings.
"Well," Elaine said, "you do have a healthy appetite. You attack each meal as if you've never eaten before," she grinned. "But, you look like your metabolism is handling it just fine!"
He cast her an amused look. "Yes...but for how long? That's what worries me."
"So, tell me," Elaine ventured. "How was your dance with Daphne?"
Andrew rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner. "Subtle isn't a word in that lady's vocabulary, is it?"
"To say the least!" Elaine agreed.
"All I can say is, please monopolize me for the rest of the night!" he implored dramatically.
Elaine laughed out loud, then said, "You've got it," all the while thinking what a very pleasant task that was going to be.
Elaine and Andrew had a wonderful time. When the square dancing began, they joined right in with total enthusiasm. Elaine watched some of the more matronly wives blush as Andrew swung them around during the course of the dancing, according to the dance caller's orders. He was completely charming to all of them.
There were old-fashioned games, too -- like bobbing for apples (Andrew got the first one of the night, and sat up with his forelock dripping wet, and a huge apple in his mouth). Elaine wasn't able to get an apple, but she did get just as wet.
Finally, at 1 AM, the band played "Good Night Ladies" -- a song that was always played by bands in the old days to let the guests know that it was time to go home...this was the final dance. Reluctantly, all the remaining guests began to leave, everyone bidding one another farewell.
"I really enjoyed myself tonight," Andrew told Elaine as he drove back to the ranch. "That was my first barn dance."
Elaine smiled. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I know I did. I've been to many of the Morrison's dances, and never enjoyed one quite as much as I enjoyed this evening's."
Andrew chuckled softly. "It's also the first time I've ever dressed like a cowboy," he confessed.
"You should do it more often," Elaine replied. "It suits you -- especially the black and white with your blonde hair."
"Keep going...," he prompted, and they both laughed.
"At least Daphne didn't try for a second ambush," Elaine then said.
"But I think that was only because we kept on the move."
"Maybe it was because I usually had my mouth full of food," Andrew mused, and they laughed again.
"How about that 88 year old couple who square danced so well!" Elaine commented.
Andrew nodded, "Weren't they something? And, how about that old guy who got so bombed and sang that song....what was it?"
Laughing already at the mere remembrance, Elaine managed, "The Face on the Bar Room Floor! Oh! I thought I had injured myself I laughed so hard!"
"What a great night," he sighed, as their laughter died down. "the kind of night you wish would never end," he added with meaning.
"Definitely," she agreed.
They arrived at the ranch, and Elaine instructed Andrew to just park the pick-up in the front drive, not to take it all the way back to the barn area.
"Leave it here overnight. No one will care."
"All right," he agreed, then looked at her and asked, "Tired?"
"A little," she admitted, "but it's a good kind of tired."
"Same here," he nodded.
They sat in silence in the cab of the truck for a moment. Each dealing with his or her thoughts.
"I suppose we should get up to bed," Elaine reluctantly sighed. "Days start early around here, as you well know."
"Yes...I know," he answered, then ventured, "Elaine?"
She looked over at him. He was stunning, with the moonlight playing over his handsome features. "Yes?"
"I...," Andrew hesitated, then began again, "I...think that I left something undone tonight...and...if you're willing, I'd like to rectify that now."
She looked puzzled. "What did you not do?"
Clearing his throat, Andrew said, "After the second slow dance we had together, I...I had the strongest urge to...to kiss you. If you don't mind, I'd like to do it now."
"Do you have to ask?" she breathed.
He looked at her earnestly. "I would never do anything like that without knowing that you wanted me to." His voice was quiet, yet firm.
"Andrew...can't you tell how I feel?" she asked then. "A handsome, smart, funny, charming man like yourself, as worldly as you are, must have been in this situation many times before. This must be second nature to you."
His eyes met hers and held them captive with his gaze. "I'm not as well versed in this sort of thing as you may imagine," he told her honestly. "But I know I don't want to do anything that you don't want also."
Not hesitating, she moved against him, still gazing into his soft green eyes. "Then know...I want it, Andrew."
"There's so much you don't know about me, and...,"
She placed a finger over his lips, stopping his speech. "Kiss me, Andrew...please!"
Cupping her face tenderly in his gentle hands, Andrew slowly drew her closer still. His lips parted, just slightly, before they oh-so-gently made contact with hers.
Elaine felt the first tentative contact of his mouth on hers, and marveled at the warmth of it. She trembled involuntarily, and then her arms twined helplessly up around his neck.
Andrew intensified the kiss. His mind and body were reeling in kaleidoscopic disorder, and were consumed in a vortex of overwhelming emotions and feelings so intense that he was lost to them! With a soft sigh, he gave himself over to the surging tide.
At the moment of Andrew's surrender, there came a sudden loud KLANK from the back of the truck. A moment later, a light came on in the house.
Elaine looked up, startled. "What in the world was that?"
Andrew gave his head a quick, harsh shake, attempting to clear his still-muddled mind, then said, "Sounded like the tailgate."
"The tailgate?" she repeated. "It's never done that before! I know it was secured before we left the Morrison's!"
The front door opened, and Vera's voice called into the night, "What's going on out there?"
Elaine, having almost regained her composure, called back, "It's just Andrew and me, Vera. The truck tailgate dropped, that's all."
"Well, you both had best get yourselves to bed! Do you know what time it is?"
"We're just on our way in," Elaine replied.
"Well, hurry up about it, and don't wake the dead while you're at it!" Vera said, and closed the door.
Elaine looked at Andrew, who still held her in his arms. "Andrew...I...,"
He smiled softly. "No, Vera's right. It is going to be an early morning -- for both of us." Leaning close, once again, Andrew softly touched his mouth to hers, one last time, in the sweetest kiss Elaine had ever had. It almost made her want to cry. Andrew then let go of her, and opened the truck door, exiting and going around to open hers.
Elaine got out of the truck and they walked to the front door together, holding hands. Vera had left the door unlocked, so they entered the house, closing and locking the door behind them. This done, they turned to face one another in the foyer.
"Tonight was like a beautiful dream," Elaine finally said. "Thank you, Andrew, for agreeing to come with me."
Andrew expelled a long breath. "It was special for me, too, Elaine."
"Thank you for my gardenia," she added, looking down at the delicate flower.
"It was my pleasure," he returned.
"I...I have to go and check the doors and windows," Elaine then said.
"No, " Andrew retorted. "You go on up. I'll secure the house."
She nodded. "All right." She paused again, but knew that their magical night had truly come to an end. "Good night," she breathed.
"Good night," he echoed, and watched as she climbed the wide staircase and disappeared into the darkness at the top.
"Well, I must say that was fast thinking," Tess told Monica, as they stood by the empty pick-up. "I'd never have thought of causing the tailgate to drop."
"Are ya mad at me, Tess? For interfering?" Monica ventured.
"I should be," Tess replied, "but, I think it was a good time for a little 'Angelic Intervention'. Mmm-hmmm...yes, indeed...a good time."
"Tess, " Monica went on, "has Andrew forgotten who he is?"
Looking thoughtful, Tess said, "Andrew, as a mortal, is just overcome by all the new and over-whelming things he's experiencing right now. He isn't an angel now, don't forget, and we can't be shocked if he isn't exactly acting angelic!" Here Tess looked again at the fallen tailgate, and patted Monica on the back. "Good work, Angel Girl."
Elaine lie in her bed gazing at the moving shadows on her ceiling and walls. The shadows came from the moonlight filtering through the breeze-caressed leaves on the trees outside her bedroom window. She had long ago given up trying to sleep, after two hours of tossing and turning.
She felt feverish and restless, and simply couldn't shut off her mind. She kept reliving that night -- over and over -- , especially the last part. She couldn't forget the feel of Andrew's mouth on hers. It had been an experience like nothing she had ever known!
Elaine had had 3 serious boyfriends in her life, and had gone out on an impressive number of dates. She wasn't a stranger to physical attraction -- but that kiss she had shared with Andrew that night, was unlike anything she'd experienced.
It was more than physical attraction for her, however. There was the fact that Andrew was totally unlike anyone else she had ever dated. The strange thing about it, was that she couldn't put her finger on exactly what it was about Andrew that made him so different!
He was terribly charming -- but she had known a few men with charm. Andrew was very intuitive, sensitive, and gentle -- but, again, she had seen those traits -- albeit not as remarkably -- in other men. Maybe, she thought, it was the way he displayed those traits, or the vulnerability in his eyes, or his unusual capacity for compassion. She just didn't know. What she did know, was that he was special...special beyond definition!
Elaine smiled as she recalled how he had asked if he could kiss her. What man did that anymore?
"Andrew does," she answered her own question out loud.
Elaine had always kept her wits about her, in a relationship, along with her good sense and judgment. But she knew that, with Andrew, she wasn't at all in control!
She suddenly found herself wondering what it would be like to spend the rest of her life with him. She could almost picture the two of them sharing the paper over a breakfast in bed on a lazy Sunday morning. Or laughing as they fought one another for the use of the bathroom mirror before going out to dinner on a Saturday night. Elaine pictured herself flying into his embrace when he'd come home from work in the evenings, and cuddling together on the sofa as each shared their day.
And Elaine just knew that Andrew would love children. She had absolutely no doubt that he would want at least two, and that he would make a fantastic and loving father. She visualized him cradling a newborn in his arms, his face full of wonder, eyes full of tears of joy, as he gazed at the miracle he held. She saw him, and two small children, both under five, dashing around a back yard, until Andrew allowed himself to be "caught", and, tumbling to the ground, was covered by the delighted little ones as they all wrestled playfully.
"I've got to stop this....right now!" she reprimanded herself. "I've only known him a little over a week, and we've only been on one date, and shared one kiss. But, I'm picturing a white picket fence and children, for heaven's sake! This is WAY out of line!"
Elaine turned over onto her stomach, and pounded her pillow with her fists before settling her head wearily on it. "I've got to get some sleep!" she groaned. "It's three AM!"
But, 2 1/2 hours later, Elaine was still thrashing about. Disgusted, she sat up, dangling her legs over the edge of the bed. It was at that moment that she heard the sound of footsteps going down the hall just outside her bedroom. Getting up, Elaine slid on her slippers and walked to the door, opening it.
"Andrew!" she exclaimed, seeing his back as he walked on down the hall.
Andrew paused, turning to see Elaine, her long hair tousled from thrashing around in bed, standing just outside her bedroom door, wearing an over-sized Garfield sleeping shirt and fuzzy pink slippers. He couldn't stop the smile that played on his lips.
Elaine suddenly realized how she must look, but he had seen her now -- at her worst -- and it was too late to do anything about it at that point! "Where are you going so early?" she asked him.
Walking back to where she stood, Andrew replied, "I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd ride up to the high meadow and watch the sunrise."
"I couldn't sleep, either," she confessed.
"Well, why don't you throw on some clothes and come with me?" he encouraged.
She hesitated, "I don't know...I don't want to interfere with your outing."
"Hey," he began softly, "it'll just make it all the more special with you there. Please come with me."
"Okay, " she agreed. "It'll just take me a few minutes to get dressed."
Andrew looked thoughtful. "How about meeting me down at the paddock," he suggested. "I'll have a horse ready, and we can get going all the faster. We have to move fast if we want to catch that sunrise."
Elaine agreed, and went back into her room to dress.
Down at the paddock, Andrew caught a large bay gelding, and put a bridle on him. He then led him over to the front of the house, just as Elaine was coming out the front door wearing old jeans and a sweatshirt. She saw Andrew and the horse, and loped over to where they stood waiting.
Andrew smiled at her, and lifted her easily onto the geldings broad back, then swung up behind her, securing himself by wrapping his arms snugly around her waist. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," she replied, and they took off for the upper meadow.
"So, how come you couldn't sleep last night?" Andrew asked, as they cantered up the rode that led to their ultimate destination.
"Oh," she said, "just one of these nights. You go to a really good party, get all stimulated from dancing and having a great time, and then it's hard to turn off your mind once you get into bed."
"Yeah," Andrew agreed, "that's what happened to me...the effect of the 'stimulation'."
Elaine wondered if he meant what she thought he meant.
"I couldn't stop thinking about last night," he continued, as if reading her mind. "Especially about what happened between us after the party."
"I though about that, too," she then replied.
"Were your thoughts positive ones?" he prompted.
"Then, you aren't sorry you let me kiss you?"
"Oh, Andrew! How could I ever be sorry? I was hoping all night that you'd kiss me, and when you did, it surpassed everything I'd imagined it would be!" she exclaimed.
"I was wondering if you'd feel that way in the -- how do they say it -- , the cold light of dawn," he replied.
"Yes, Andrew...I do," was her answer. "Ever more so than last night."
"It was the very same for me," he added softly, and they rode on.
When they reached the high meadow, they found the highest rise they could and dismounted, leaving the horse to graze on the meadow grass. Elaine found the perfect vantage point, and sat down in the soft new grass, facing the east, to await the first sign of the sunrise. Andrew sat down behind her, drawing her back between his thighs, and resting his chin on her shoulder. Elaine leaned back, her head resting against his chest.
After a few moments, the eastern sky became stained with a gray-orange hue on the horizon, and slowly the gray faded, until the entire sky was awash with a breath-taking pink-orange light.
"Oh! It's so lovely!" Elaine gasped as she watched the sunrise unfold before their eyes. "To think, that all my life I've lived here, and have never ridden up here to catch a sunrise!"
"Sunrise is one of God's favorite times of day," Andrew commented, his lips brushing her ear as he spoke.
"And, how would you know that?" Elaine teased, snugly deeper into his embrace.
Andrew was silent for a moment. "Elaine...there's something about me that you have to know, and I think that this is the time to tell you," he finally said.
Elaine turned her head and looked at him. "You sound serious," she ventured, suddenly feeling a tight knot of fear twisting in her stomach.
"I am," he replied.
Near by, Monica and Tess stood watching the two of them.
"We're going to be needed very soon, Angel Girl," Tess told Monica.
"Why? What 's going to happen, Tess?" asked Monica.
"All I know, is that The Father said we had to be here at sunrise this morning. Andrew and Elaine are here....now we wait."
Monica shivered involuntarily. "I think Andrew is going to tell Elaine he's an angel."
"Well, if you'll hush up now, maybe we can hear what they're saying," Tess replied.
Elaine turned completely around to face Andrew. "You're scaring me, Andrew. What is it you have to tell me?"
"Elaine," he began, "last night our relationship took a new turn. I don't think I'm wrong in assuming that we discovered we've come to have some very deep feelings about each other -- even in the brief time we've known one another."
She nodded, "I agree."
He sighed. "There's no easy way to tell you this, so I'll just say it. Elaine, I'm an angel."
Elaine looked incredulously at him. "What?" she asked, not certain if she should laugh or take his temperature.
"It's true," he affirmed. "I am an angel."
She didn't know how to respond, but managed, "I don't see any wings under that sweater, or a halo over your head." She had decided to take it as a joke. It HAD to be a joke, after all.
Andrew shook his head. "When an angel comes to Earth, to work on an assignment for The Father, it is given a human shell. What you see now is my human form, and that has no wings. As for the halo -- it exists, and can be seen by humans when needs be, and is the Light of The Lord, emanating from the human body we have."
Elaine got to her feet. "This is just stupid, Andrew!" she then said.
Andrew also got to his feet, "This is the truth, Elaine. I am only telling you now, because of what we were coming to mean to one another. To not tell you would be unfair. I came here to take your father Home when his time comes. He is my assignment. Elaine, I'm the Angel of Death."
Elaine turned and faced Andrew. "Have you lost your mind?" she demanded.
"No...not at all," was his gentle reply. "I know it's a lot to take in, but...,"
"Hard to take in? That's the understatement of the century! Now, let me get this straight...you're not just an angel, you're the Angel of Death," she finished with a brittle chuckle. "Okay...if you're an angel --ANY angel -- where's the light you were talking about? You said that you could show it to us 'humans' if you wanted to -- where is it? Let's see the light, Andrew!"
He looked down, for a moment. "I can't do that," he said finally.
"Oh, really?" she exclaimed. "What a surprise!" She wiped a tear off her cheek, then implored, "Andrew, why are you doing this to me?"
He went to her and took hold of her shoulders. "I can't show you the light, Elaine, because right now I'm a mortal -- totally mortal. God, for some reason, took away what it is that makes me an angel, and for the last few days, I have been living as a human. The thing is, I don't know when He'll restore me to what I was truly created to be. That's why, considering last night, I had to tell you this." His eyes pleaded for her understanding, but she drew back.
"Andrew...you were making me angry...but now you're scaring me! All this nonsense about being the Angel of Death, and the Light of God, and God making you a human...you're really frightening me!" she sobbed.
Shaking his head with frustration, Andrew said, "Please, Elaine! What I'm telling you is the truth! You have to listen to me!"
She didn't appear to be listening. She then said, "You know, I've seen men do a lot of crazy things to keep a relationship from getting too serious, but this really takes the prize!"
"Please, Elaine! You have to believe this. It's the truth!"
She pushed him away, and headed for the grazing horse. "No! I don't have to believe you! I don't have to stay here and continue to listen to this nonsense, either!" She pulled herself up on the horse and took up the reins, her eyes pooling with hot tears. "This is sick!" she cried, and began to turn the gelding around.
The gelding wheeled, rearing up on its hind legs. Something had startled him, and as he reared, Elaine -- caught totally off guard -- let go of the reins and fell of backwards, hitting her head on a rock as she landed.
With a cry of "NO!", Andrew ran to where Elaine lie inert in the grass. He fell to his knees by her side, and looked down at her, his eyes full of desperate pain. He took up her hand, pressing it against his cheek. "Elaine! Elaine!" he implored frantically.
"She's gone, baby."
Andrew looked up, his face a tear-stained mask of pain. He saw Tess standing beside him. "What?" he whispered, looking back at Elaine, who still lie in the grass. He gathered her into his arms, then, holding her body close to his. "No! no, it can't be, Tess!" he sobbed, and buried his face in Elaine's thick hair, smelling the familiar scent of lilac that had always been there.
Tess put her hand gently on Andrew's shoulder. "You knew you were here to take someone Home, baby. It was Elaine's turn."
Andrew looked at Tess again. "No! It's a mistake! It wasn't her time! It was her father's time! Everett Prescott. He's the one who has leukemia! I was here for him! Tess! This is all wrong!"
"Honey, you know God doesn't make that kind of mistake," Tess replied.
Andrew, shaking his head, replied, "This is a mistake! Elaine was so full of love and life! If she's gone, then I'm the one who killed her! If it hadn't been for me, she wouldn't have gotten on that horse! She got on that horse, because I had to tell her 'the truth'!" Here he began to rock Elaine's body in his arms. "I killed her, Tess!" he cried. "I killed her!" He broke down, sobbing desperately.
Tess got down on her knees, putting her arm around Andrew's shaking shoulders. "It was her time, Andrew. You know that's true." she soothed.
"How could it be her time?" he managed. "She had everything good in life ahead of her! A husband, children, growing old with her family around her. Tess, she had thousands of sunrises to enjoy, sunsets, barn dances...everything that is good and beautiful in this life!" Here Andrew looked up to the sky. "Father, please! Bring Elaine back. It was my fault! Elaine shouldn't be dead! I know that this can't be your plan, Father!"
"Elaine did not die because of you," Monica then said.
Andrew turned his face to Monica, and she winced as she saw the raw misery there. "How do you know that?" he challenged bitterly.
"I know, because I'm an angels, and right now, you aren't," was Monica's soft reply.
Andrew buried his face into Elaine's hair once again. "Please, Father...don't let this happen!" he mumbled deliriously.
Tess gave Andrew a squeeze. "Baby, I know you're hurting now, but The Father wants you to think, Andrew. How would you feel about Elaine's death when you were the Angel of Death?"
He just shook his head.
"You would have known that the place she was bound for -- the place you were taking her -- had more to offer her, then this old world ever could! You'd know that where she was going was a place of peace, and joy and wonder, where there is Life Eternal and never sorrow or grieving!"
Here, Andrew looked up. "No one's come for her! he said. "Are you taking her Home, Tess?"
"No, baby," Tess replied, "You are."
A golden glow of light suddenly surrounded Andrew, and his jeans and sweater were replaced with a double-breasted ivory suit. At the same instant, all his mortal trappings...all the feelings and emotions and sensations were gone, and once again he was filled with the Light of God.
Tess stood up, and she and Monica stepped back.
Andrew looked at them a moment, and then looked at Elaine. Her eyes opened.
"Andrew?" she ventured, hardly about to see for the light that surrounded him.
He smiled. "Yes...it's me."
"You are an angel!" she exclaimed.
"I am," he nodded.
"How come I can see you now? Why are you dressed like that?"
"Elaine, you're earthly body is dead," he told her gently. "I'm here to take you Home."
Standing up, Andrew drew Elaine's spirit out of her earthly body and up to join him.
"You look so different!" she marveled. "And I see that light all around you."
"Yes," he replied.
Elaine turned to see Tess and Monica. "Are they angels, too?" she asked him.
"Yes, baby," Tess said with a friendly smile. "We're here to help your father cope with your death, and soon, Andrew will come back to lead him Home.
"Poor Papa." Elaine replied. "I didn't even get to kiss him good-bye." Turning back to Andrew, Elaine saw that he held a white gardenia in his hand, Carefully, he pinned it on her blouse, and Elaine smiled.
"Andrew, I'm so sorry I doubted you...,"
"Hush," he soothed. "I understand, and that doesn't matter now."
"So...what happens now?" she queried.
Andrew smiled. "I become your escort again," was his answer, "only this time I'm taking you to a place that puts the Morrison's barn party to shame."
She paused, "Are there horses in heaven, Andrew?"
"Fields of them," he said.
"And...will I see you there?" she ventured.
"All the time," he said, and offered her his arm.
She took it, then said, "The very first moment I saw you, I knew that I would follow you to the ends of the Earth."
"And beyond!" he added.
A brilliant light suddenly began to form just beyond where they stood.
"This is our ride," he told her, and arm in arm, they vanished into the golden light.
Monica looked at Tess as the two walked away. "This was a hard lesson for Andrew," she said, tears in her eyes.
"Don't cry for Andrew, Angel Girl," Tess said. "You know that the world's sorrows, pains, emotions and loss ended for our Angel Boy the very instant God reinstated him as an angel. All the worldly feelings have gone now, but you can be certain that Andrew now knows why humans are attached to this place. He'll remember the mortal pleasure of all the sights and sounds and smells and tastes. He'll remember how happy all that made him, and he'll remember that when he came to experience human love, his feeling eclipsed everything else. He now understands why humans hang onto their mortal lives so desperately. The pleasures and relationships they have here, are all they know. They have no way of knowing what awaits them when they get Home, so when the Angel of Death comes for them, they often fight to stay."
Monica nodded. "When he knew that Elaine was no longer alive, he went to pieces! He knows what lies ahead for her, yet he still was truly sorrowful."
"That's because he was still a mortal," Tess told her, "and still under the mortal influences of earthly feelings."
"It made me feel sad to watch him suffer that way," Monica confessed.
"I know," Tess replied, "It hurt me, too. But that pain lasted only a few moments. Other than that, our Angel Boy enjoyed his experience of being human, I think it's safe to say," she grinned.
"Tess...when I was human, I was thrown in jail, and made to be homeless in the winter," Monica said.
"It's not for us to question how Our Father arranges things," Tess replied. "But you can bet, that those few moments Andrew had to endure were far worse than any experience you had behind bars or going without a home."
Monica said , "You're right, Tess. But he's back with us now, and back with the understanding God wanted him to have."
"Right you are, Miss Wings," Tess agreed. "Now we still have some work to do down at the house," she added.
Monica paused for a moment to watch as the first golden rays of the rising sun came up over the horizon. "It's a glorious sight, Tess, isn't it?" she sighed.
Eyes on the sunrise, Tess smiled her broadest smile as she put an arm around Monica's shoulders. "The Lord does good work!...yes,... indeed he does!"