Ally woke to Paradise. She sat up in bed, yawned, then stretched. “What?” Where am I? “Oh, yeah.” She shook her head awake. “I got married to an angel yesterday, and now I live in Paradise.” Was it a dream?
Alley jumped out of bed at the sound. She observed Joel sleeping in his bed. “Nope, wasn’t a dream.”
She quietly left the room. When she entered the kitchen, smells of bacon, eggs, and coffee greeted her. Her stomach grumbled from hunger.
Kaylee turned to see Ally walking in, rubbing her eyes. “Good morning.”
Alley sat at the table. “Good morning.” Ally received the cup of hot coffee from Kaylee. “Ummm, just what the doctor ordered.”
Kaylee put a plate of bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast before Ally. After thanking Kaylee, Ally asked, “Do you eat? Or are you more like Joel, not needing food?”
Kaylee sat at the table with her own cup of coffee. “When you get a glorified body, it doesn’t require the same nutrition that your old body does. That said, most new arrivals eat from habit more than anything. Some enjoy it, so they eat without worrying about gaining weight and diseases.”
Ally swallowed a fork full of eggs. “Really?”
“Sure, but while you may now live in Paradise and have angel powers, you still have a human body. So, you still need to eat.”
“I guess I am an oddity, huh? A human with angel powers living in Paradise without dying.”
Kaylee laughed. “Yes, definitely not the normal situation. But, it is a temporary one. At some point you will die too, then you’ll live here permanently. As it is currently, you are free to go with Joel to help people in Camellia and the rest of the universe.”
“The universe?” I had never considered going to another planet. Of course, I don’t exactly decide where I go. “So, is there other life out among the stars?”
Kaylee grinned. “Of course. Some of it would be life not-as-you-know-it. But plenty of life in the universe. Maybe you’ll get to experience some of it before you die.”
Ally nodded as she sipped her coffee. She stared at the cup. “Don’t tell me Joel also grows coffee beans too. This is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.”
“Oh no. Those beans come from angel George’s place up the road.”
Ally though for a couple of seconds. “And the bacon?”
Kaylee smiled. “Nope, no pig farms and slaughter houses in Paradise. Joel brought that up specifically for you from Camellia, along with the eggs.”
Ally then asked, “Do you mind if I ask a more personal question?”
Kaylee nodded. “Sure, after all, I had my whole life ‘shouted from the rooftops’ sins and all, since I’ve arrived here. There is nothing that is personal and private in Paradise.”
“Do you live here with Joel?”
She pointed to a door on the other side of the living room. “Sure do, right over there.”
“How did you end up here with Joel?”
“You know already of my long history with Joel. He was one of the first people to meet me after I died to the former world. Upon my arrival to Paradise, he invited me to his house for ‘dinner.’ I ended up staying with the arrangement that I take care of his garden and place since he’s gone so much.” Kaylee leaned over and whispered to Ally, “Don’t tell Joel, but I agreed to it more for the tea than to help him out.”
Ally laughed with Kaylee.
“You don’t think I already knew that?” Joel had come out of the bedroom. He yawned. “You might recall that the tea was one of my major selling points.” He winked at Kaylee.
She smiled. “I did figure you knew that, yes.”
Joel yawned again. “I don’t know how you humans get so much sleep. It makes me sleepy to sleep so much.”
Ally feigned surprise. “I would have never guessed it, the way you snored so loudly.”
“Snored? Me? I seriously doubt it.” Joel held his nose in the air in mock arrogance, which caused first Ally and Kaylee to giggle, and then Joel laughed too.
“Seriously,” Ally said, “You don’t have to sleep at the same time I do.”
“I know. I’m just trying to figure out how to do ‘marriage’ with a human. This is the first, and probably only time, in angelic history that a human has had the abilities of an angel and been married to one.”
“I think we are both trying to figure this out. After all, it is also the only time in human history that a human has taken on angelic powers and been married to an angel. Right?”
Joel sat at the table and received a cup of coffee from Kaylee. “As far as I know.” He sipped some coffee. “Nice. By the way, Ally, I was up most of the time you were asleep.”
“What did you busy yourself with?”
“Making plans for our honeymoon.”
Ally smiled. “You did?” Then her smile dimmed. “You did! How exactly did you plan it out?”
“I did some research. I watched a show called the Honeymooners. It didn’t seem to help. It only demonstrated how to have fights. By apparently the ‘man’ threatening constantly to punch the woman in the ‘kisser,’ which I took to be her mouth.”
Ally’s eyes stared at Joel. “Wow! Just wow! What world was that from?”
Joel gulped down some more coffee. “It appears, at least on Earth, that a favorite place to go for a honeymoon is a place called Niagara Falls. Not sure why, though. The only thing there is a river that careens downward for a very brief period.”
Ally shook her head. “After what you told me what they believe goes on in a honeymoon, I’d question anything from that world.”
Joel nodded. “The important thing, I believe, is what do you think it contains, and what would suffice for you?”
“Hum.” Ally tapped her right index finger against her lower lip. ‘’Not like I’ve ever been married before to know, but it generally seems to be normal to go somewhere special and spend time together.”
“Hum, strange. It’s not like we spend an inordinate amount of time apart as it is. Like I said last night, and if it is important to you, then it is important to me, but what’s the point of a honeymoon?”
Kaylee cleared her throat. “You are forgetting, my newlyweds, that you do have somebody here who has been married before?”
Joel huffed. “Okay, married-to-Cole-in-an-unusual-fashion-woman, what do you have to offer?”
“Why did it not work out with your previous wife?”
“I, uh . . .” Joel jaw set. “What does that have to do with our honeymoon?”
Kaylee smirked. “Humor me. You see how it fits in.” Joel hesitated. “Come on, Joel. Shout it from the rooftops! Confession is good for the soul, even an angelic one.”
“Well, okay.” Joel gulped. “Best I can figure, we simply went our separate ways to the extent that we no longer acted married. I was out doing my angelic missions per the instructions of the Big Boss, and she had different task she was assigned to a position at headquarters.”
Kaylee smiled. “Just as I suspected, you failed to spend enough time together due to your work schedules.”
Ally jumped up from her chair and paced as she thought and spoke. “Of course. The idea being that you start off your marriage totally focused on only each other, so you go somewhere special that the demands of your job won’t distract you.”
Kaylee grinned. “Exactly, and they have an annual anniversary to keep reminding each other of that need. At the heart of any good marriage is the spending of time with each other, human or angelic.”
“Or,” Ally grinned widely as she could. “Or, if, like us, you’re job is like an continuous honeymoon, you just keep doing your job.”
Joel nodded. “I think the two of you may be onto something there about honeymoons. So, where do you want to go? I just checked with the Boss Man, and he says it is a go.”
Ally jumped up and down. “Hey, do either of you two have a good planet we could go to?”
Kaylee grinned while Joel’s eyes grew wide. Joel said, “You want to go to a planet?”
Ally nodded with a big smile. “Can you think of anywhere in Camellia or one of its alternate worlds that we could go to get away from our work?”
“I see your point.” Joel opened his arms. “Of course we could go to an alternate world on another planet, I think the one on, what is called on Earth, Neptune, would be a good one. I know of a nice cafe and touristy spot there.”
Ally jumped into Joel’s arms and they hugged for a moment.
Once they released, Ally said, “I wonder something, though. Why do you refer to a name by what Earth calls it?”
“What do you call it, then?”
Ally shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t think we have a . . . wait a minute. I see where your going with that.”
“Exactly. One of the advantages of Earth is that they name practically everything. Not merely people and cities, but even stuff like their machines that transport them around, to every star in the sky that they can see. Even a person has a first name and a last name at least. Many have more names attached to those. And as if that were not enough, they often give each other nicknames as well.””
Ally wondered aloud, “What’s a nickname?”
“A nickname is usually a term of endearment—though it can be negative—given to someone, or a shortened form of their name. For instance, you nickname could be Al. But not likely since that is primarily a man’s name, though there are exceptions to that practice, and some girls end up with boy nicknames, even some—“
Kaylee jumped in. “Hum, I wonder why they do that?”
“I think it is because they have a hard time dealing with ambiguities, and names tend to identify and classify things.”
Ally wrinkled her nose. “You mean they even name groups of things?”
Joel nodded. “Sure do. You do as well. Maybe not to the same scale as they do. But you tend to identify yourself by the town you are from. Your town is a group.”
Ally nodded. “I see what you mean, though we don’t name a town to identify a group of people, but to identify the town itself. But we do use it to refer to the group we are from.”
Joel lifted a finger into the air. “But, even the act of naming a town is naming a group. Why else would you give a place a name other than the fact people live there? You don’t have a name for every mile of road in Camellia.”
Ally’s jaw dropped. ‘You mean they do?”
“Pretty much.” Joel drained the remainder of his coffee from the cup. “Anyway, I’ll go and set up our honeymoon, Honey.”
Kaylee and Ally giggled as Joel disappeared.
Yes, I’ve moved my blog!
I did so in part due to the power-grabbing of “Big Tech” companies like Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Apple, to name four of the biggest ones, who have censored and become arbiters of any opinion that disagrees with their own and seeks to silence opposing voices in a purely bigoted manner. Anyway, I figured it best to divest myself of those companies in as much as possible. So since Blogger is owned by Google, this is one thing I can do toward that end.
The other reason is I began to think about my “Simple Website” php application that I put together some years ago, and still to this day, I use it to create most of my websites. I began thinking how I could modify it to be used as a blogging platform, so I sat down earlier this week and put it together. I had a working copy of it the next day, but I wanted a few more functions like a category method, a page view counter, as well as a subscription method. I thought, very briefly, about constructing a method to allow comments, but in my experience, about 99% of the comments I’ve received on blogs are spam, while most of my comments appear on Facebook or some other posting venue. So there is little motivation for me to invest the work into it for more work on my part dealing with spam.
So I’ve worked on those things today, and I have, hopefully successfully, made it a fully functional blogging app. Probably lacking some of the theme-ing options of more professional options, but sufficient for my needs.
Also, to save myself a lot of work, I’ve decided to simply start fresh on this blog, with my chapters I’ve been posting of Ally’s Angelic Adventures but otherwise leave my blog and its rather long history on Blogger (I believe my first post was in 2007). After all, I doubt that Blogger will be going away anytime soon. That’s why you won’t see much here, at least for now.
One of the things you need to do, if you want to follow this blog, is to subscribe to it. Just click the link on the left to sign up to my Google group (I know, yet another Google product, but it was the only viable and free option) . If you sign up for it, you’ll get a free copy of the Reality’s Dawn Ebook. You’ll find it in the files section of the group once you’re on it. Or otherwise contact me and I’ll send you a copy. So, don’t delay, sign up today!
Thank you all for your prayers and support. Many blessings.
R. L. Copple
Joel’s house appeared before Ally. She ran for the door. The angel couldn’t be far behind. She scampered up to the door, and opened it. There Joel sat at his table, sipping a cup of tea with Kaylee.
Ally put her fists on her hips and stared at Joel.
Joel winked at her. “You know, just some timey-stuff.”
Kaylee rose and asked, “Do you want some tea, Ally?”
She nodded, then sat in a chair next to Kaylee as Kaylee poured her a cup of tea.
Ally thanked Kaylee for the tea, then said, “I’ll remember that next time, fellow angel.”
Kaylee reseated herself. “Joel here has just finished filling me in on what happened, in as much as he knows. What happened at the dragon testing?”
Ally’s eyes darted between the two. “Well, here’s the short version. After talking to Doodle for a bit, I went where he showed me to go, which was a lake that the stream emptied into. I sat there waiting for what felt like an eternity, but when it happened, it didn’t seem like any time at all had past.”
Kaylee nodded. “I know the feeling very well.”
Ally smiled at Kaylee. “Then, the water started bubbling. I sort of expected a dragon to burst out of the water. Instead, the water shot up into a column and atop the column stood a lady all dressed in white, holding aloft a flaming sword. She shined as bright as any sun, so much so I could barely look at her. Then without a word, she threw the sword toward me—it plunged into the ground next to me—and then she disappeared back into the water.”
Joel’s and Kaylee’s eyes stared hard at Ally as she spoke. As much as they had both seen in their lifetimes, Ally could tell this was something both of them had never heard before.
Ally swallowed another gulp of tea. “After examining the sword stuck in the ground, I figured I was meant to pick it up. So I started to reach for the sword, when a voice rang in my head to stop. It was a dragon, and he said I had a choice. A choice between bonding with him, or picking up the sword and going with you.”
Joel huffed. “And you didn’t ask him what picking up the sword would mean?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t. Guess I just figured picking up the sword meant picking up the sword. I didn’t have any idea that I would end up with it coming out of Paradise, or that it was anything more than a way for me to make my decision concrete to either bond with a dragon or continue on with you as we have been.”
Joel rose and paced the floor. “Boy, oh boy. This could change everything if it means what I think it means.”
Both Kaylee and Ally said, “What?”
“I’ll need to verify it with the Boss, but I also need to know more. How did you decide?”
Ally, unsure what was going on in that crazy mind of his . . . oh wait! She possibly could now. She focused on him, but could hear only Kaylee’s thoughts. “What? You mean we can’t communicate mentally anymore?”
Joel shook his head. “No. The only people angles can talk to mentally is the Boss and other humans, ‘dead’ or alive. Anyway, continue, please.”
Ally took another sip of tea. It helped her to focus. “So, I was thinking about what the dragon said when I audibly heard a different voice behind me. It was Timothy.”
Kaylee held up a finger. “And who is he?”
“Oh, he’s the other candidate for Shushuma.”
“That’s unusual.” Kaylee scratched her head.
“Yes, but God had a reason, as he made sure I would go before he did.”
Joel nodded and said with some impatience, “Okay, but how did you decide?”
Ally frowned. “I’m getting there if you can have a little patience.” When the angel didn’t say another word, but simply stared at her . . . intensely, she said, “I had earlier sensed some self-doubt and lack of confidence in Timothy at the dinner the night before, and he had worked himself into needing a great power from bonding with a dragon to feel important enough to matter. So I simply related to him what I had just learned from the dragon about my purpose in life, that it isn’t so much what you do that gives you purpose, but who you are and love, to fulfill the greatest commandments in Scripture. That’s our purpose. That’s when I realized that I was already fulfilling my purpose, and that God had put me there at that time to help Timothy get his dragon. Not me. So I knew that my path lay with you.” Ally scrunched her forehead. “Why is that a bad thing? I thought that’s what you wanted? Granted, me having angelic powers changes how we might operate together, but what is so ‘this-could-change-everything’ about anyway?”
Joel paced the floor for a while before he said, “Let’s just pray I’m wrong. But I need to check with the Big Boss. Be right back.” Then a light enveloped him, and he disappeared into the light.”
Ally sunk her head. “I didn’t think he’d be like this. I thought he’d be happy for me, for us. Maybe he’s jealous of my new powers?”
Kaylee started cleaning up the cups from the table. “Normally, I would say you could be right. But for some reason, this has him stumped. Granted, nothing like this has ever happened in the angelic world before, but he fears something significant has changed. Not sure what myself.”
Ally stepped toward the couch. “Guess there’s not much to do but wait until he returns and tells us what’s up.” Ally slumped into the couch. She kept thinking about all that had happened, and the sword she now wore on her hip, and what it might all mean.
Joel paced back and forth across the floor. “You may want to sit down for this.”
Kaylee sat at the table, listening in on the discussion.
Ally frowned. “I am sitting down.”
“Oh. Maybe I had better sit down then.” He plopped onto the couch, close to Ally.
Ally examined Joel’s face closely. “So, what’s so bad about me becoming an angel?”
“Well, let’s see. How do I begin?”
“Uh, at the beginning?” Ally gave Joel a slight smile.
Joel cleared his throat. “First off, it isn’t that it necessarily is ‘bad’ as such. More like it was a big, shall we say, shock.” Joel displayed a weak smile.
Ally huffed. “Out with it angel. You’ve been beating around the bush long enough.”
Joel breathed deep. “Okay. I’ve been trying to decide the best route for this. Maybe coming right out with it is best.” Joel swallowed. “That lady on top of the column of water? She was my wife.”
“Your wife!” Ally’s jaw dropped open.
“Yep, and that sword she threw at you, that you picked up? That was to bond with me. To become my . . . uh, wife.”
Kaylee fell out of her chair, but quickly scrambled back up. “She was your wife? How come I didn’t know this?”
Joel shrugged. “Guess it never came up.”
Ally shook her head. “I’m your wife?”
“Pledged to be.”
“But . . . I thought angles couldn’t marry? That there was no marriage in the afterlife.”
Joel breathed deep again. “That is true, for humans. For angels, what we call marriage isn’t the same thing as what you would call it. In other words, there isn’t any mating or children, just very good friendships. In all other ways, it is like human marriage.”
Ally thought for a few seconds. “So, angels can divorce?”
Joel twisted his mouth. “In a manner of speaking. Not like humans do, since we don’t bond so intimately, there is no physical bond to break. More an emotional and spiritual bond. Much like a rider’s bond with his dragon.”
“So, is there a ritual that I, or rather, we would need to go through to be ‘angel-married’?”
“You can if you want to, but it isn’t required.”
“What is required, then?”
“That both parties agree.” Joel watched Ally’s reactions. “No, there’s no sticking of my ‘claws’ into your hands like during the dragon ceremony.”
“That’s good. Guess I’ve already agreed. Crazy system.”
“No, you’ve accepted the pledge to marry me. However, one of the reasons I wanted to know how you decided was to know whether you were ever aware of what picking up the sword meant. I’ve talked it over with the Big Boss, and he agreed. While you are currently pledged to marry me, you can still back out if you wish. The only thing you need to know is that if we don’t bond, that you will lose your angel powers and . . .” Joel cleared his throat. “You’ll no longer come with me to help people, nor will you even remember me or the journeys that we’ve taken together.”
“What!” Ally’s jaw dropped again. “Why?”
Joel mumbled something.
“What did you say?”
Joel blurted out, “Because we’ve been acting as if we were married.”
“We have?” Ally’s jaw dropped yet again.
“You have?” Kaylee blurted out from the kitchen area.
“Yes, and I took full responsibility for it. I know you had no idea, Ally. It’s just, one thing led to another. Next thing you know, we were a team.”
Ally held her head down, without saying a word. Then, she started with a restrained chuckle, which soon turned into laughing.
“What’s so funny about that?” Joel asked.
“Because, that’s what human’s say about love, that ‘one thing led to another.’ The thought of an angel like yourself sinning in that way just struck me funny.”
“Sinning. Me? I mean, it is possible for an angel to get things wrong on rare occasion, but sin? Never. Now, if we had physically bonded, that could get me tossed out of the ranks of angel and listed among the demons.”
“Is it possible for an angel to physically bond? I mean, if one was evil and wanted to?”
“Not since the great apostasy happened. The Big Boss changed us so we could no longer bond in that way. That’s why I said it could never happen. The only way an angel could really sin now is to intentionally go to the other side.”
Ally let our a sigh of relief. “That’s good.”
“Why?” Joel asked. “Am I really that bad looking?”
Both Kaylee and Ally laughed at him.
“No, you’re not bad looking at all. It’s just if I did decide to bond with you, and it tempted you to really sin, I’d hate to be the cause of your downfall. So I would opt to not bond with you. But, why erase all my memories of our time together and that you exist?”
Joel raised an eyebrow while staring at Ally. “You should know the answer to that. Who was the impatient one who drug me away from my poker game?”
Ally nodded. “Oh, yeah. I guess the pull to see you and return would be too great otherwise.”
Joel pulled Ally into a hug. “I’m sorry I ended up putting you through this. My main mission to you was to help you get your emotional connection under control. Beyond that, I should have left you and never told you who I was.”
After a moment, Ally extracted herself from his arms and stood up. “This has been a bit much to take in and process all at once.”
“Understandable,” Joel agreed. “Take all the time you want to decide. We are in Paradise, after all.”
“Three things, one a question, the other two are statements.”
“Go ahead. I can take it, I’m a big angel.”
“First, I need to go somewhere that I can be alone for a while, or at least with some people who could help me think this through.”
Kaylee entered the living room area. “I can come with you, if you’d think it would help.”
Ally smiled. “Sure. The second thing, Joel, is . . .” She waited until she had his full attention. “I forgive you.”
A huge smile crept across his face. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. The one question I have for you is what do you want?”
“Why, I don’t know whether anyone has asked me that before. What do I want? But, I didn’t discuss with the Big Boss whether I had an ‘out’ too.”
Ally stepped over to Kaylee. “But you didn’t have a say in the arrangement either.”
He nodded. “True, but I did treat you as if we were married, justifying it that you didn’t view it that way or know enough that I was viewing it that way, so I convinced myself it was okay. At any rate, it was my fault that you ended up in this situation, so I figured I didn’t have a choice in the matter, I had been acting married to you already. My former wife simply attempted to make it official.”
“Well, you have a choice now. If you don’t want to go through with this, then I don’t want to either.”
Joel smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Ally. I’ll give this some thought myself while you are gone.”
“Good enough.” She and Kaylee disappeared in a flash of light.
Ally and Kelly sat at a table, at a tavern in Jerole. They had appeared just outside of town, walked into town, and to the tavern. Now they sat at a big round oak table, Kaylee apparently waited for Ally to speak.
She grabbed a gulp of ale in a fancy goblet that they had been served. “Crazy, isn’t it.”
“Well, I was referring to the whole marrying Joel thing, specifically, but yeah. All of it is crazy. Ever since Joel has come into my life, it has been crazy and surreal.”
Kaylee nodded. “Tell me about it.”
Ally’s head shot up. “Oh yeah. Joel mentioned recently that he ‘helped’ you. How did you meet him and how did he help you, if you don’t mind sharing.”
“Sure.” Kaylee took a gulp from her goblet. “Joel was our family’s guardian angel, though I didn’t know that part until I arrived in Paradise. The first time I met him was on the sky island. He helped us get down by turning our horses into flying horses. I originally thought he was this ultra-annoying boy full of hormones. What he was attempting to do, I found out after I died, was to help me get over my fear of men, so that I could eventually find a real mate. The only problem was, that it worked so well, that I fell in love with him, but that’s when he began distancing himself from me, because he was an angel and couldn’t marry me in the way he knew I would expect to be married, though I had no clue at the time. All I knew was that he stopped being around me, which ultimately drove me into the arms of another man: Cole Sr. It all turned out good in the end.” Kaylee held up a hand with her thumb and index finger around a quarter-inch apart. “Though I came this close to sinning with Cole. Mentally, I did, so taken with him as I was.”
Ally’s eyes widened. “Wow!”
She nodded. “Awesome and crazy all at the same time.”
“Yeah, like my current situation.” She thought how to phrase the following, just in case he was listening in. “I’m not sure what to do. It’s just that, I have never thought of Joel in that way.”
“But you love him, don’t you? I’ve seen it in him and you both.”
“But not in that way.”
Kaylee shook her head. “You’re thinking about it as if it was an equivalence to human marriage. Angel’s cannot have passion-like love.”
“So what type of love do they have?” Ally listened carefully.
“They have the love of friends, the love of selflessness, and the love of familiarity.”
“The first two I recognize, but I’ve not heard of the last one.”
“Think of a favorite shirt or pet who you love primarily because they are familiar, comfortable, and you’ve had a good experience with them. Over time, they become so much a part of your life that you can’t imagine being away from whatever it is. Though people are more complex than a thing, the love still applies. The more time you spend with someone, the more that type of familiarity-love grows.”
Ally nodded. “I see, it makes sense now.”
“That’s the way that Joel looks at you. It is the only way he is able to love you as an angel—as a friend, as a companion.”
“That’s good, because it is the only way I love him.”
Kaylee smiled. “Us humans always think things won’t change. What if some day you do want passion-love from him?”
Ally shrugged. “I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.”
Kaylee sighed. “But, will you cross the correct bridge? There are wrong bridges you could cross to ‘solve’ that problem.”
“True.” Ally focused on nothing for a moment. “Of course, I won’t know what bridges there will be until I get there.” She focused on Kaylee. “And, does the threat of temptation ever justify the deciding against a course of action?”
Kaylee shook her head. “No, not by itself.”
“So, as I see it, I have two options. Option one is to decline the offer, go back to the way of life I had before I met Joel, I would forget all about him and the adventures we’ve gone on. Which means I wouldn’t be longing for this way of life. I wouldn’t know it even existed.
“Sounds about right.”
Alley took another gulp. “Option two is to accept his offer, angel-marry him, and we would continue to go on journeys together save that now we would be on equal footing as far as ability goes, save for experience.”
“There is one more factor to add into this. If I don’t accept his offer, I will live, hopefully, happily ever after since I will be unaware of this life, however, Joel will not. He will live with the knowledge of what could have been all his ‘life,’ however long that is.”
“Definitely something to consider. Though I’m sure he would bare it well, knowing it was his own fault.”
Ally nodded. “Bare it well? I’m sure I would have him spying on me and observing me from afar for some time.”
Kaylee chuckled. “Or, you’ll regularly be supplied with his tea, which you will ‘mysteriously’ find on your windowsill whenever you’re running low.”
Ally grinned. “Really? He did that?”
Kaylee nodded with a big smile.
Ally’s somber down-turned mouth returned. “I guess God has erased all the other possible options as real potentials to choose.” Ally stood, tossed some money that she had appear within her tunic’s pockets onto the table to pay for the drinks. “Okay, I’ve made my decision. Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.”
Ally stood before Joel, a frown graced her face, along with a hung head. She stared up at Joel. “So, what is your decision before I tell you mine.”
He sat on the couch. “I feared this day might come. Ever since you agreed to come with me.” He swallowed. “If you’ll have me, I’d be graced to have you continue to travel by my side as my angel-wife.”
Ally allowed her head to sink down. “That’s all well and good, but I’m thinking a few things. One, you took advantage of me when I didn’t know any better.” Joel started to talk but Ally held her hand up. “I did forgive you for that, still, it has to be an indicator of how I could expect our future relationship to go.”
Joel nodded unenthusiastically.
“Two, you’ve kept information hidden from me, like the fact that you’ve had a wife, why you didn’t want me to go to discover whether I should be a dragon-rider or not, the information of what my consequences would be by going with you, the list could go on and on.”
Joel nodded. “Though in my defense, I do have a long history. It would be hard to reveal the last three to four thousand years of my history to you adequately.”
“Naturally. But I would expect important things to be related to me, like that you had a wife, and that I was fulfilling her role, unknown to me. I would think those are two key bits of information you would convey up front, don’t you agree?”
His head sank. “Yeah. I should have told you about those things.”
“And probably some other things that I’m still oblivious to.” Joel raised his hand and started to speak. Ally cut him off. “It’s a little bit late to enter in new evidence of your guilt, don’t you think?”
He nodded his head to the side. “Eh? Probably.”
“Third and finally,” she paused for effect. She could see that Joel was bracing himself for the coming decision. She glanced at Kaylee, who stood there stoically. “Because of those reasons, and the fact you are a pitiful example of an angel . . . “
Ally walked over to the bedroom door and flung it open. “I’ve moved it to help your sorry excuse for being an angel.”
Joel fell the floor and banged on it, crying and lamenting. “Woe is me, for I am undone!” Then he stopped, looked up at Ally, who now grinned as big of a grin as she could. “What did you just say?”
“I essentially said despite your faults, I do love you, as an angel, and my answer is yes.”
Kaylee clapped her hands gleefully. “I do love a happy ending!”
Joel rose to his feet, still not fully taking everything in. “You said ‘yes’?”
Ally pointed at Joel. “Gotcha!”
Joel examined his, that is, now their, bedroom. It was fuller than it had been, with an additional twin bed, dresser with a mirror, and a nightstand. “When did you have time to move all this?”
Joel knew the answer as he said it, because he said in unison with Ally, “Timey stuff!”
Ally giggled. “Yeah, Kaylee and I did it while we were at the dragon’s testing thing.”
“Ah, so that’s why the world was so strange back then. For a while, there were three of you in the world at the same time. One in paradise, one in the Dragon’s Hall, and one at my house.”
Kaylee pulled out a cup and a pot of tea. “I suggested, for witnesses sake, that we solidify this agreement with drinking from a common cup of tea.”
Joel smiled. “Sounds perfect. The only problem is, we would need more than one witness.”
Ally said, “Will around fifty or so do?”
A rap on the door sounded through the house. Joel opened the door to find a small crowd outside his front door.
Ally greeted them, then said to Joel, “It was hard to hide that I was moving in, so by the time we finished moving in, we had a large crew helping us from Paradise.”
Ally and Joel stood by the table as Kaylee poured tea in the cup. Joel took the cup and said, “I promise to do my best to no longer deceive you, but to treat you as the true angel you are. I pledge my life and my undying support and love to you, Ally of Reol.” He took a sip from the cup and passed it onto Ally.
Ally, having a hard time keeping from crying, said, “I promise not to pull another deceptive trick on you like I just did—though you deserved it—and I pledge my life for yours, my heart for yours, my so that we may be one soul and one team, even if there are two of us. I love you as the angel I am and you are. I pray that I can be a true help-meet in your journeys to help other people. We’ll do it together, Angel Joel of Paradise.” Ally gladly took a sip of the tea to a crowd clapping and cheering.
It was the sweetest and best tasting tea she had ever tasted.
Ally gazed around, awed by her surroundings. She and Joel walked through an about 50 yard hall, filled with pillars on the left and right. Beyond the pillars were areas where lower ceilings extended, mostly containing tables, which she figured were for big feasts and such. They made their way down the long walkway toward a dais, with seven chairs on it, apparently for a meeting of the council that governed this community. Light shown especially bright, centered on a chair in the middle carved with special designs that Ally had never seen before. She swung her head up—light poured in from outside through holes in the high ceiling. No doubt directed into the hall using polished metal. A wall rose behind the chairs, stopped halfway to the ceiling, before heading into a loft as its floor. Ally saw a couple of dragons sleeping in the loft. She smiled when one of them snored.
Joel turned his head toward her. “What’s so funny?”
“I had no idea that dragons snored like my grandmother.”
Joel chuckled. “Dragons do snore. Usually much louder than people do.”
Ally pointed at the woman who had just seated herself in the center chair. “What is her name again?”
“Kathryn, but everyone calls her Kelly.”
As they drew closer, Kelly’s features came into view. Long, black hair had been tied into a ponytail. Her high cheekbones and narrow but squared jaw gave her the air of a leader. Then Ally saw her piercing, green eyes. They seemed to see right through her.
Joel whispered to Ally, “Follow my lead.” He formed a fist with his right hand and put it to his chest, then bowed. “Greetings, President of the Dragon Council. It is good to see you again.”
Ally did what Joel did, but didn’t say anything, hoping her actions would be sufficient.
Kelly grinned. “It is good to see you again as well, Joel. So reports of a companion in your wanderings are accurate.”
Joel swung his left arm toward Ally. “This is Ally, Ally of Reol. She has a request to make of you.” Joel motioned for her to go ahead and speak.”
Ally cleared her throat. “I’m interested in finding out whether I should bond with a dragon or not. I want to go through whatever test to discover that.”
Kelly nodded. “Let’s talk about this over some coffee and tea.”
Joel winked at Ally.
Once they had received some tea or coffee, depending on the preference of each, Kelly moved from small-talk with Joel to why Ally had come.
Kelly took a sip of her coffee. “First, I should tell you that the life of a guardian or rider is a difficult one, full of danger, lots of traveling, working to find and prevent attacks not only upon us, but also our allies. It can also be a great benefit and the rewards are, as one rider of old put it, ‘out of this world.’”
Kelly smiled and Ally smiled back. Kelly took another sip of her coffee. “Going through the testing used to be much more secretive than it is today. With Cole and Grinoth’s work in opening up the outside world to our existence here—may God have mercy upon their souls—we normally have people come here to go through Shushuma all the time. As a matter of fact, we have one other candidate ready to go through it as well.
Ally asked, “What exactly is Shushuma?”
“Oh, that’s a fancy word for the testing one goes through to be bonded with their dragon.”
“Got it.” Ally smiled real big. “And I’ve recently talked to Co—“
Joel glared at her.
Ally’s mouth hung open for a second before she continued. “That is, I’ve heard a lot of stories about Cole, being that we were from the same town and all.”
“You’ll find some things you’ve been told are accurate, while most are not. Best not to rely upon them.”
Ally opened her mouth, but Joel broke in before Ally could defend herself. “Yes, Kelly is right. You really shouldn’t rely upon old wife's tales.” Joel turned to face Kelly. “Now why don’t you tell her more about Shushuma? I’m . . . I mean, we’re busy people.”
“Joel, you of all people should know how important this is. It should not be rushed.” Kelly stared Joel.
He sighed. “I know, I know. Please, go on.”
“Okay.” Kelly glanced at Ally, then to Joel, then she focused on Ally. “Anyway, the testing is more open than it used to be, so now we go straight to wearing the gloves, as that presents the real test anyway. Once you’ve gone through that, you’ll either come back with a dragon or not, as the case may be.”
Ally nodded with a curl of her lips. “Cool. When do we start?”
Tomorrow morning. Timothy will be going through this with you. Also, it is traditional to have a feast the night before Shushuma. I hope you both can make it. Alley grinned. “I would love to attend.” She turned to face Joel. “We can be there. Right?”
He smiled. “I love the feasts. Of course we’ll be there.”
The smell of a multitude of foods filled the air. The tables bulged with meats, various side dishes, and deserts.
Ally breathed in deep to take in all the flavors through her nose. “Wow! This is what I call a feast.”
Joel, who walked into the Great Hall with her nodded. “The guardians are well known for their feasting, that is true.” He pointed to a couple of empty chairs toward the front of the head table. “I believe that is where we are supposed to sit.”
As they approached, Kelly, who sat at the head of the table stood and motioned to the chairs. “Welcome, our treasured guests.”
Joel bowed to her, so Ally followed Joel’s lead. treasured Ally jerked her head toward Joel. “That wasn’t your voice in my head!”
Joel nodded toward the loft where several dragons sat, having their own feast. “That was one of them.”
“Dragons can mind speak?”
“Sure, though they often don’t intrude on other’s thoughts without permission, save for their own bondling. But I imagine they are just as interested in you as you are in them.”
Ally stole a look at the loft. She mouth dropped when a rather bulky dragon winked at her. “Joel, is that my dragon?”
He laughed. “No telling at this point. That will be decided tomorrow—if you do end up with one.”
She frowned at Joel as she seated herself. “You would have to add that thought.”
He smiled. “Are you that desperate to get away from me? How quickly you change my dear. One hour you are forcing me away from my vacation to be with you, only to seek to leave me once you’ve got me?”
Ally refused to smile back at the angel’s jab. “No, it’s not that. It’s just I need to find out if I’m supposed to be here at all.”
Ally swung around to the guy who sat next to her. A black, short-cut haired young man greeted her. A lanky, but otherwise muscular arm reached out to shake her hand. She took his hand and gave him a firm handshake. “I assume you must be Timothy?”
“Yes. I am.” He swept the room with his eyes. “This is all so exciting, isn’t it?” His eyes stopped moving when he saw the dragons in the loft.
She also gazed at the dragons. “Yes, it is. To think we could be riding one of those fine dragons tomorrow.” The thought was enough to take her heart away to thoughts of flying through the clouds. In her peripheral vision she could see Joel’s frown. He quickly cleared his throat and started chatting with Kelly about something.-
Ally wished she could console the angel, but what if she did end up staying here and he was to go his own way? She shoved such thoughts out of her mind. After all, they would know tomorrow the outcome and she would have to deal with it then. Not now.
She returned her attention to Timothy. “My name is Ally from Reol. Good to meet you.”
His eyes grew wide. “You’re from Reol? That is where Cole is from. Wow! What’s it like living there?”
“Well, there is a big forest surrounding it—very pretty in the fall—and during winter—“
“No, no. I mean what is it like living there in the shadow of such great men like Sikso and Cole?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. What is it like not living with such a history in your town of . . . ?”
“I’m from Dragon’s Inn.”
She chuckled. “And your asking me what it is like?”
He laughed. “I see what you mean. But all my life I’ve felt the pull to be a dragon rider like Cole. I’ve studied him and tried to emulate his life.”
“That’s pretty hard to do, considering the unusual way he started out and the power he had.”
.“I know. Tell me about it. I’ve tried to at least find a wizard that I could study under, but all I’ve got for the effort are a few parlor tricks, not real magic.” Then a big smile crept across his face. “But I’m sure to get a dragon and a power with it. Then I’ll be something.”
Ally nodded, but she turned on her own power of feeling other people’s emotions. Happiness and joy filled soul from all the people in the building, save one. Timothy. From him she felt a lack of confidence. Strange since he came across as a confident man. But she had realized a long time ago the mask people attempt to put on when in public.
Before she could say anything more, Kelly rose and banged an empty cup on the table. She gave an introductory speech to the people seated in the hall. Both her and Timothy stood when requested and someone even sang a song in their honor. Then she ate and chatted some more with Timothy. It was a magical night, especially watching the dragons celebrating in their own unique manner of roaring on occasion and blasting fire into the air. The sight was so powerful that it sent chills up her spine every time they did it.
But the evening eventually wound down and Ally retired for the night, dreaming of riding in the clouds with her own dragon.
The next morning, they sat at one of the tables, eating some type of hash browns with vegetables for breakfast. Surprisingly, they tasted pretty good. Better than she expected. She ate the whole plate. Not only because they were delicious, but because she couldn’t wait to put on those gloves.
Soon, Kelly showed up with a fairly plain box made of some type of wood, Ally wasn’t sure what kind. Kelly opened the box, pulled out a pair of woven metallic gloves. She held them up and said, “Who’s first?”
Timothy’s hand shot up. “I’ll go!”
Ally’s heart bubbled with joy for Timothy, knowing how long he’d waited for this day. She prayed he would get a dragon.
Kelly pointed to a small wooden bench next to her. “Lay here and put your hands up.”
Timothy laid down, quickly but resolutely as if suddenly recognizing the importance of this moment. He stuck his hands into the air. “I’m ready.”
Kelly moved the gloves toward his hands, but stopped short of putting them on. She wrinkled her forehead. “Strange, but something isn’t right here.”
Timothy’s mouth fell open. “You mean, I don’t even get a chance to find out whether I get a dragon?”
Kelly shook her head. “No, you’ll get your chance.” She turned her gaze toward Ally. “It’s just that I’m getting the strong impression that Ally should go first.”
Ally shrugged. “I don’t mind if Timothy goes first.”
Kelly sighed. “It’s not that I think girls should go first, rather I’m getting a strong impression that the, as Joel would say, Big Boss wants you to go first.” Kelly motioned for Ally to lay on the bench.
Ally shifted her view to Joel. He nodded. “I’m getting the same info from upstairs.”
Timothy rose, then sat at the table. His mouth wore a frown while his eyes communicated confusion. “I suppose I’ve waited this long, what is another few minutes?”
Ally stood while mouthing “Sorry” to Timothy, who cracked a small smile in response. She lay on the bench and put her hands into the air. This was it. Now maybe she would discover her purpose in life. The gloves slipped onto her hands, and the room with Joel, Kelly, and Timothy faded into black.
As the world came back into view, she lay in a meadow. She rose and did a 360 to view the area. On the edge of the meadow stood a forest, and a babbling brook ran along the other side, entering the forest at a ninety-degree angle to the line of trees. The surreal glow of the area told her where she now stood: Paradise. “I’ve been here before!”
“Yes, you have,” a familiar voice said. She spun around to see Doodle’s distressed face. “And we need to get you back to Kaylee’s house before you know who realizes you’re here. Why did you wander away again? Do you want Joel to no longer be with you?”
Ally held out her palms toward Doodle. “No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. I did put on the gloves this time.”
His mouth formed the shape of an “O.” “So you are here to find a dragon?”
Ally smiled and nodded.
“Well, what do you know? I didn’t think you would convince Joel to let you go through with it.”
Ally shrugged. “He wasn’t too hard to convince. Why do you think that?”
“He, ah . . . he, well, he sort of talked about you a lot.”
“What do you mean that he ‘talked about me a lot’? What did he say?”
Doodle’s face flushed. “I’ve already said too much. But it was all positive. The way he went on about you at the poker game before you whisked him away, I just didn’t think he would be so keen on you getting a dragon, is all.” After a moment of silence, Doodle said, “If you’re here to get a dragon, then follow me to the stream.”
Ally went with Doodle while wondering at the words he’d spoken about what Joel had said. No wonder he acted the way he did when she mentioned coming here.
Once they reached the brook, Doodle stopped and pointed downstream. “You follow the river to a small lake. Then wait there, and eventually you’ll meet your dragon.”
“How long is ‘eventually’?”
Doodle shrugged. “How long is eventually in Paradise? Who knows, there’s no time here. Just wait there, someone will be along . . . eventually.”
Ally nodded. “See you later.”
“I certainly hope so.”
She smiled, then turned to head downstream. As she entered the forest, she marveled at how the light didn’t change. In her world, trees offered shade from the sun in a forest. Here, however, everything gave off light—plants, rocks, the ground, all animals, even herself—so that there was no need for a sun. She strolled through tall trees that reminded her of Brownwood trees back home. They towered, she figured, about 75 yards into the air. Finally, she came to a lake. A distant shore in the background indicated, at least to her, that this wasn’t a “small” lake. She sat on a log by the shore and watched the water lap onto the shoreline.
Ally waited for eventually to arrive, and it eventually did in the form of bubbling waters. The bubbles grew to a gush of bubbles, then a water column shot into the air. On the top of the column stood a lady dressed in dazzling light. She held aloft a sword, a flaming sword, much like Joel’s. Then she tossed the sword toward Ally. Ally ducked to form a ball. The sword stabbed into the ground beside her.
Then the water column started sinking. Ally stood up and said, “Wait, don’t go. Someone has to tell me what this means!” Despite her pleas, the angelic creature sank into the waters until the lake swished with the small waves of water washing over the shoreline.
Ally huffed, then stepped around the flaming sword in a circle. After a moment, she decided she was intended to pick up the sword. She reached her hand out grab the hilt.
Echoed inside her head. She jerked her hand back and scanned the area. A dragon stood before her, about twenty feet high. Fat body, small head, the classical fire-breathing dragon type. He—assuming it was a he—had folded his wings up alongside his body. He was definitely intimidating.
“Are you my dragon?” Ally sat back down on the log.
The dragon sat on his haunches. “Maybe, maybe not. That depends on what you choose.” He pointed his tale at the sword. “If you pick up the sword, you’ll stay with the angel. If you do not, you’ll stay with me.”
Ally stood and started pacing back and forth as she talked. “But I came here so I wouldn’t have to choose. I wanted to know what God wants me to do. I wanted to know my purpose in life.”
“Those are two different questions. What God wants you to do has nothing to do with it. It is what God wants you to be, and who you are to affect in your doing that gives one purpose. You could serve God and others equally either way, by staying with Joel or going with me. There is only one catch if you go with me, you will lose your ability to sense what others are feeling.”
“Because you’ll get a new ability when you join with me.”
The dragon laughed, sort of. “If I knew that, I would be God.”
Ally huffed. “So I’m supposed to make a decision here without all the facts. A decision I had hoped to avoid.”
“That is your decision as to what you should do with your life. It is God’s decision as to how you fulfill his plan by what you do.”
Ally thought for a second. “But for God to be able to do that, he would have to know what I’m going to choose? Even before I know what I will choose.”
The dragon smiled.
“So, you are saying that God knows what I am going to choose, and based on what I choose, he predestines me to a certain purpose?”
The dragon nodded. “You’ve got it. Though, in reality, we all have the same basic purpose.”
Another voice sounded behind Ally. “Hey, what are you doing here? I just left you in the Great Hall.”
She turned to spot Timothy standing by the shore. “I don’t know. We can’t be wearing the same pair of gloves at the same time, can we?” She turned back toward the dragon.
The dragon roared with laughter. “You of all people, Ally of Reol, should know that time is mutable in Paradise.”
She examined the dragon. “I suppose so. It was just so unexpected.” Her eyes grew wide. “I know what I should do!”
The dragon smiled as only a dragon can do. “I knew you’d figure it out.”
Timothy glanced between them. “What are you two talking about? I don’t even know where here is?”
She had been brought here to help Timothy, more than herself. That’s why she had to go first. Ally turned on her emotional connection and focused on Timothy. “You’re not looking at this correctly. It isn’t what great power one has or what great accomplishments you can do that gives one purpose, rather it is following the first and second greatest commandment in Scriptures: to love God and to love each other as yourself. That is what God’s purpose and plan is for each of us. We choose what we will do . . . ” She reached over and grabbed the hilt of the sword and pulled it into the air. “But God works through us and what we do to help us fulfill the greatest commandments.”
Timothy stared in awe at Ally as the flaming sword lit up the area even more, if possible, than it already was. “Wow, you’re right!”
“And now that Ally has made her choice, you also have a choice, Timothy.” The dragon shot flames into the air with a great roar. “If you choose to bond with me, you will serve in the kitchen and cleanup maintenance for the rest of your days. If you don’t, then you don’t. However, you will become an apprentice to a wizard and become a great wizard much like Josh. But, you will not have a dragon with you. What do you choose?”
Timothy’s head bowed as he mumbled, “The kitchen? Cleanup? I could have done that at home.” Then he raised his head. “But then, I would not be bound to a dragon either. And I’ve dreamed about that, have planned for it.” Timothy walked to the shore and stared out across the water for about a minute or two. Then he turned around and walked up to the dragon. “What is your name?”
“I thought you’d never ask. But before I tell you, what is your decision?”
Timothy smiled. “I choose bonding with you.”
The dragon roared. “I’m glad you have chosen me. You will not regret it.”
Timothy cocked his head to the side. “Why?”
“Because, my name is Grinoth.”
Timothy’s eyes grew wide. “Grinoth! Cole’s dragon! But I thought he had gone onto a different world?”
“He did.” The dragon smiled. “I am Grinoth, Jr.”
Timothy shook his head. “I can’t believe it!” Then Timothy dashed to the dragon and hugged his leg.
Grinoth caught Ally’s eye as she stared at them and winked at her. She winked back.
All went black, to be followed by a return of the Great Hall, and an astonished angel’s wide eyes staring at her.
She rose to a sitting position and took off the gloves, handing them to Kelly. She scanned the area, but saw no dragon. Timothy still sat where he’s sat when she went to Paradise. Apparently for him, what she’d experienced was still in his future. “Joel, why are you staring at me like that?”
Joel pointed at her. “You came back with something.”
“What?” She stood and a rattling noise came from her left. She glanced around until her eyes saw what made the noise: a sheath with a sword in it. She reached for the hilt.
Joel held out a hand. “Don’t remove it. We need to discuss this in private.”
“Okay, let’s go now.”
Timothy lay down on the bench, the gloves slid on him and he appeared to become unconscious.
Joel nodded toward Timothy. “Don’t you want to find out how Timothy fairs?”
She stepped toward the door. “I already know how he fairs.” She glanced up at Joel. “Timey-shifting stuff, you know.”
Once they were outside, and strolling among the trees Joel said, “Does that sword, perchance, burst into flames when you pull it out?”
“Why yes it does. Hey, you want to see?” She reached for the hilt.
Joel held up a hand. “No. I know what a flaming sword looks like.” He firmly grabbed Ally by her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. “Only angels carry flaming swords.”
“Are you suggesting that I’m an angel now?”
“Either that, or some angel in inventory is out of a job today.”
“Well, I did have a watery tot throw the sword at me.”
Joel cracked a smile.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“It’s from another world. You wouldn’t understand.” Joel mouth changed from a smile to a more serious demeanor. “You are now, an angel for sure, with angel powers. Though I don’t know if you are human or not still. This is a first, an unprecedented move.”
Ally smiled. “So I can go to Paradise whenever I want?”
“You could live there.”
“And I can go anywhere and anytime like you can?”
“I would believe so.”
“Race you to your house!” Then Ally disappeared in a flash of light.
Joel shook his head as he gazed into the sky. “Are you sure this was a good move? Really?” He, likewise, disappeared as light dimmed in his wake
Ally discovered that she did indeed need the downtime. She had time to mentally process all that had happened to her, what she had experienced. Yet a week had gone by with no sign of Joel. Had he forgotten about her? Did he find some other girl to run thither and hither with? Maybe he would never take her with him, again and she would live out the rest of her life normally?
An idea popped into her mind—maybe Joel was waiting on her to call him? She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled out, “Joel, Joel. Can you hear me? If so, please drop by.” She waited a few minutes for an answer. When none came, she repeated her request, but it achieved the same result. Ally flopped down on her couch. “He’s never coming back.” She let out a big breath of air in resignation to the idea.
Then yet another idea invaded her mind. She jumped up and ran into her room. She rummaged through her drawers and a couple of chest in which she stored various objects. Then, upon opening up a drawer, she saw what she had searched for—a little bell.
She held it in her palm and said, “God, please honor this request of mine, that Joel will return when I ring this bell. Amen.” She imagined that God laughed at the request.
Then she returned to her living room and rang the bell. A blinding flash of light enveloped the room, then died off to reveal Joel, who was positioned as if sitting on a chair. He wore a ridiculous costume: a pin-striped shirt, with a fancy lace-outlined vest, and a hat that only had a brim on the front, but no top. Initially, he stared at at his hands as if they held something, but then his eyes first squinted at his hand, then they opened up, darting around. Finally, when he realized he no longer sat on a chair, his eyes grew wide as he fell to the floor in a crash.
“Wha . . . what happened?” His head turned until his eyes landed on Ally. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Good to see you again too.”
He stood up, brushed himself off, then his clothing changed into his normal white angel “dress” or robe, she wasn’t sure what they called it. “I was playing poker with some angel friends,” he said.
Ally wrinkled her forehead. “Poker?”
“Sort of like your game of card shark, only with slightly different rules.”
“Now, what’s the deal with interrupting my week’s vacation?”
“Vacation? You mean to tell me angels get vacation time?”
“Of course we do.” He cleared his throat. “Though the rules are different. But the better question is how did you pull me here without my consent?”
Ally held up the bell and gave it a ring.
The color drained from Joel’s face. “Oh no! Micheal didn’t pay you a visit, did he?”
Ally chuckled. “No. This is my own bell. I asked God to use it to bring you here, and he did.”
Joel scowled at Ally. He reached out a hand. “Give me the bell.”
Ally started to pull it back, but then gave it to him. “Have it if you want. I don’t need a bell to call you here. I can just ask the Big Man to do it for me.”
Joel threw the bell on the ground. “Fine. Just let me know before you pull me here next time.”
Ally bent over to retrieve her bell. “I tried to contact you, but it wasn’t working. I thought you had forgotten about me.” Ally froze, then slowly turned toward Joel. “Hold on a minute. Why were you on vacation? I thought I was the one that needed the ‘downtime’ as you called it.”
“I was overdue for one and it seemed like a good time. So, I wasn’t listening for you.”
Ally stuck out her bottom lip. “Well, I guess that is okay.”
“Though I am sorry for your trouble in contacting me. So, what do you want?”
She shrugged. “I’m bored. I’m ready for our next adventure.”
Joel rubbed his chin for a moment. “Hum. First I would have to say goodbye to my guests.”
Ally jumped. “Great, then I can go with you!”
“I don’t know if that is such a good idea. Remember what happened last time you came to my house?”
“I promise not to wander off this time.”
Joel looked her up and down. “Well, if you promise not to get into any trouble.” He pointed a finger at Ally. “But don’t get me in trouble with Michael again. Otherwise . . .” Joel gulped. “It really could be the bell for me, again” He shook his head. “How do I allow myself to be talked into these things?”
They both disappeared in an angelic light-flash.
They both appeared about the same place that Ally recalled last time. There was the same quaint cottage with a garden next to it growing Joel’s tea, except this time no one was tending it.
Joel waved her to follow. “Come on inside.”
Ally did a double-take. “You mean, I get to go inside this time?”
“Like, yeah! I’m not letting you out of my site.”
She followed the angel down his short walk-way, up his porch, complete with a swing on the right end of it, and through his creaky screen door that reminded her of her grandmother’s house. Once inside, a soft couch and rocking chair set, both needed dusting, and a round dining room table gave a particular ambiance that she had never associated with Joel before. Around the table sat eight people, only one who she recognized, Kaylee.
One of the men spoke out, “Well there you are, Joel. We wondered where you had disappeared to.”
Joel held out his arms toward Ally. “Here is the reason for my sudden departure. I’m afraid I must get back to work; vacation is over.”
“You mean to tell me a little girl commands the great angel Joel around!” Guffaws followed those remarks from another guy.
“Joel,” Ally said. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?” Then Ally recognized the man who just spoke. “Doodle!”
He stood and bowed. “Hi, Ally. How are you getting along with your new dragon?”
She glanced at Joel. “Just fine. He’s a little ornery at times, but for an angel, he’s not too bad.”
Everyone laughed again. Once Doodle regained his composure, he added, “I don’t know. Joel is a little too scrawny to lift you into the sky.” Laughter erupted again.
Ally shot a glance at Joel. His face had turned red, whether from embarrassment or anger she wasn’t sure. Joel scowled at Doodle. “She never got a dragon for your information. As a matter of fact, you almost single-handedly ruined her life trying to play dragon-matchmaker!”
Everyone’s laughter died off, and their smiles disappeared. Kaylee spoke up, “Now Joel, the guys were simply having a bit of fun.”
Ally tried to divert the conversation. “Maybe it would be best for the rest of you to introduce yourselves. How about if we start with you, to the right of Doodle there, and go around the table until you come to Kaylee sitting the Doodle’s left?”
Joel grumbled something under his breath as he sat on the rocking chair.
The first man arose from his chair and bowed. “My name is Seth.” Ally nodded at each one as they spoke in turn. “Mine is Sisko.” “I’m called Jake, Sisko’s brother.” “Josh.” “I’m Cole.” “And to top it off, I’m Kaylee’s brother, Nathan.”
Ally stared at them each in turn. “Wow! This is like a list of the biggest names in Camellia’s history!”
Most of them said together, “Camellia?”
Seth asked, “Isn’t that a flower?”
Kaylee pointed out the window. “Of course it is, but it is also what Ally decided to call our world.”
Sisko nodded. “I like it.”
Cole lifted his cup of tea, made from the plants growing in Joel’s garden. “I like it too. So much so, that I propose a toast to the name Camellia for our world. It’s about time our world had a name. Let’s make it official!”
Everyone at the table raised their tea cups and clinked them together. Scattered “Hear, hears” echoed around the table. Ally beamed as they took sips of their tea.
Ally pointed at a cup. “Don’t suppose I could get a cup of tea?”
Kaylee hopped to her feet. “Of course. Have a seat.”
As Kaylee worked to make her a cup of hot tea, Ally decided to ask a question. “I’ve been curious ever since I was here last and was almost joined to a dragon. Should I think about joining with a dragon and what is it like?”
Sisko shook his head. “I only rode one very briefly. Cole and Doodle here could speak more to that.”
Cole sat back in his chair. “Well, depends on if you have anything else going on in your life, because being bonded to a dragon is as much like a marriage as anything, as well as a life-long commitment to protect and fight for your dragon.”
“Until, death do you part.” Doodle smiled.
“That’s right.” Cole took a sip of his tea. “About the only way to find out whether or not you are a ripe for such a life is to go through the testing phase yourself.”
Ally thought for a second. “I think I would like to investigate this further.”
“Now hold on one minute,” Joel spoke up. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
Doodle laughed. “Why not, my dear angel? It is the best way to find out whether she’s fit for the task.”
“Well . . . because, because I don’t like it. We’ve been going around helping people for a time now. We’re a team. And a darn good team if I do say so myself.”
Ally smiled. “Aw, Joel. I didn’t know you cared that much.”
“I . . . don’t care ‘that much’. It’s just that, that I need your ability to help me.”
Ally placed a hand on Joel’s hand. “It will be okay. You know that ultimately it is up to the Big Man anyway, right?”
“You would have to bring him up.” Joel looked at the table of people. “Isn’t anyone going to support me?”
Seth cleared his throat. “Joel, you know we are your friends and will gladly support you in any endeavor you choose.”
Joel smiled. “Thank you, Seth.
“Hold on, I didn’t finish. In like manner this isn’t about you, it’s about Ally. I can’t speak for the others, but I have a good feeling about her. If she wants to explore this life-purpose, I don’t see any reason to deny her the request.”
Nods and murmurings of agreement rose from the rest of the table.
Joel stood up. “Alright already! Kaylee, I assume you can see to the departure of my guest?”
Kaylee nodded. “Sure.”
“Okay, Ally, let’s go.” A bright light engulfed her and Joel.
When they reappeared, she stood in the midst of a large valley surrounded by mountains. Dense but beautiful vegetation surrounded them. Ally did a one-eighty to take in the area. “Where are we?”
“Where do you think? The Dragons’ Battle Field, naturally. Follow me to the Dragon’s Hall and I’ll introduce you.”
“Really? You’re taking me to see the dragons?” She clapped her hands together.
“That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”
“Yes.” She stopped walking. “Joel, how did you manage that back at your house?”
Joel turned to face her. “Manage what? Coming here? I thought by—“
“No, not coming here. I want to know how you could be so grumpy while sitting in Paradise?”
“It wasn’t easy.” Joel’s eyes locked with Ally’s until they both broke up laughing. Joel resumed heading for Dragon’s Hall. “The truth of the matter is that I’ve grown used to having you with me. I wouldn’t like losing you to a dragon’s life. But I couldn’t say that in front of the others.”
Ally caught up to him to walk beside him. “Why not?”
“They wouldn’t understand. They would suspect that I was becoming romantically involved with you, something angels are prohibited from doing.”
“You mean, angels can’t have wives and babies?”
Joel laughed. “No, we cannot?”
“But the stories about Kaylee? What about those?”
“That was different.”
“In what way?”
Joel frowned. “I was tasked with helping her through her fear of men, due to issues you wouldn’t understand. Once I fixed that, I began the work of extracting myself from her desires for me.”
Ally shook her head. “No wonder.”
“No wonder, what?”
Ally sighed. “No wonder she had such a hard time trusting a man.”
Joel huffed. “Like I said, you wouldn’t understand. Now, let’s go get Susuhma over with.”
“You and your strange words.” Ally followed the angel up the steps leading to a big ledge in front of a set of giant doors embedded into the mountainside.