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.