Ally sat at a table back in Joel’s house, chatting with Kaylee about all she had seen and done on the planet Neptune. “And you know what?”
“What?” Kaylee took another sip of her coffee.
Ally gazed longingly at the ceiling as if staring off into the sky. “It was the most amazing time of my life! I mean, to go to a world so different from anything I’d experienced before, and to do it with Joel, of all people.”
Kaylee ran her finger over the rim of her cup. “I’m very glad that you had such a great time.”
Ally watched Kaylee’s gaze as she said it. She didn’t look Ally in the eye. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
“Who wouldn’t be?” Kaylee’s eyes shot up to meet Ally’s. “After all, I used to be like you about him. Of course that was before I knew he was an angel. Now I wonder how I failed to see it. But he never revealed himself to me, not like he did you. That’s what I really jealous about. Everything would have made more sense if I had known.”
Ally nodded. “I can see that.”
“But I do have to warn you.” Kaylee looked around, as if she might spot anyone spying on their conversation. “That because you are aware he’s an angel, that it does introduce a certain incompatibility between you two.”
Ally scrunched up her forehead. “Incompatibility? What are you talking about?”
Kaylee cleared her throat. “That you are human, subject to change, whereas he is more, static, for lack of a better word.”
Ally retained her confused facial expression. “I don’t understand. He’s changed even by our marriage.”
“Okay, I’ll state it more bluntly then. Humans change. That’s our nature. While he won’t end up changing at all.” Kaylee held up a finger as Ally opened her mouth. “I’m not saying that he won’t change, only that for him, his change is very, very slow. Keep in mind, he’s been alive for . . . “
“Over 5000 years, if I recall correctly.”
“Right. And I’ll bet he has changed very little in all that time. You, however, will change. A whole lot in your short lifetime.”
Ally gave what Kaylee said some thought. She opened her mouth to ask a question.
Joel materialized in a flash of light. “Are you two talking again? I always wonder what plots you two are hatching behind my back.” He gave them a big grin.
Kaylee smiled. “I’ll never tell!”
Ally simply left her mouth open.
Joel frowned. “Looks like you might confess, sister.”
“I . . . I was about to ask Kaylee a question I had.” That was true enough.
“Go ahead. Don’t let me stop you.”
Ally waved her hand. “Oh, it wasn’t anything important. It can wait for another time.” That probably wasn’t quite true. Thankfully, Joel couldn’t read her mind, one of the benefits of having angelic powers. Oh well? Guess I’ll have to wait to find out exactly what Kaylee meant by that. “What’s up, brother?”
Joel grabbed a cup and filled it with coffee, then sat at the table. “I did promise the Big Boss that I would be responsible for training you. Are you ready to begin?”
Joel sipped his coffee. “The first thing you need to learn is how to get your assignments.”
Ally smirked. “Seems to me, we’ve always flown by the seat of our pants.”
Kaylee wrinkled her nose. “Flying by the seat of your pants? How can anyone do that?”
Ally wondered herself. “Oh, you know, to be spontaneous. Have no plan.” Ally turned to Joel. “How did I know that?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but I assume it must have something to do with your time on Earth in conjunction with your emotional connection.”
“But that isn’t the first time we’ve been to Earth.”
Joel shrugged. “I’m not really sure, but the first time we did visit during a different time period. Maybe that has something to do with it. At any rate, there is more to getting an assignment than ‘flying by the seat of your pants.’ That’s just how it appears to people.”
Ally grinned. “Okay, brother, I’m listening. What do I do to get my assignments?”
Joel downed the last of his coffee and rose from the table. “I’ll show you.” He waved for her to follow him.
She finished her coffee and followed him to the middle of the room.
Joel said, “Now, it is true most of the time that I don’t know where I’m going, but that doesn’t mean there is no plan. It’s just that the Big Boss is the one who knows the plan.”
Ally smiled. “Ah, I see. Sort of a need to know basis.”
Joel stared at her for a moment before saying, “Yeah, that’s how He operates. It appears random and capricious to the casual observer, but He always has a plan and purpose to his movements.”
Ally laughed. “Sort of like, the Lord moves in mysterious ways.”
Joel shook his head. “I’m becoming concerned about this emotional connection you appear to have with Earth’s twenty-first century.” He frowned. “Now, focus, please. This takes some concentration.”
Ally straightened up. “Okay. I’m ready.”
“Close your eyes if helps, but you need to meditate on the following phrase: Lord, not my will be done, only yours.”
Ally looked at Joel. “But that’s just a prayer?”
“Exactly. Now, think about only doing that, concentrate as hard as you can.”
Ally focused on that prayer, but after almost a minute had passed, she said, “This doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Close your eyes and try again.”
She closed her eyes and focused on the words of the prayer. After five seconds had passed, she felt a change of wind hit her face, a colder wind.
“What?” She opened her eyes. A flat plain with a road—highway, that is—stretched both ways into the distance. “Where not back on Earth are we?”
“What does your angel sense tell you?”
Ally sniffed the air. “That this is Earth, Kansas about 2008, give or take a year.” She faced the angel. “But why would God send us back here?”
“Either there is someone different here we need to help, or we need to do something more for the lady we helped last time, or . . .”
“Or what?” Ally didn’t like the way his sad eyes looked at her.
“Or, you are afflicted with an unhealthy link to this world, and God has sent us back here to figure out what it is.”
Ally nodded, but stunned at Joel’s prognosis. “Maybe my connection with Earth will always bring me back here?”
“That’s what I said. You have an unhealthy connection to this world and time period. You can’t go anywhere else until that is solved.”
Ally hated ambiguities. “Define ‘unhealthy connection’?”
Joel grimaced. “It’s so mushy of a concept. It’s sort of like, not healthy, as in—“
“Joel! Tell me plainly. What do you mean by unhealthy?”
“As in, if we are not able to figure out why this is happening, it could be the end of your angel career, and . . .” Joel fell silent.
“And . . . your time with me.”
“Think about it. We are married to each other. How effective of an angel could either of us be if we could only go to one place and time?”
“So, you are unable to go anywhere but here too?”
“As long as we travel together, yes. The only way I can go anywhere else is without you.”
Ally huffed. “Then we had better figure this out. Where do we start?”
Joel walked in the same direction that they had walked the last time. “Our first goal should be to eliminate the easier-to-deal-with possibilities. Starting at the lady’s house we visited last time.”
Ally followed the angel, fearing that the “simple” solution wouldn’t end up being the real solution.
* * *
Ally followed Joel as they approached Joy’s house once again. “How long do you think it has been since we vanished on her?”
He sniffed the air. “Roughly, about a week or two.”
“Do you have any idea what seeing us again will do to her?”
Joel shrugged. “Hard to say. Individuals are so . . . individual in their responses.”
“Well, here goes nothing.” Ally knocked on her door.
In a moment, Joy opened the door. At the sight of the two, her mouth fell open for a moment, then a smile crept across her face. “Come in, come in my angels.”
Joel frowned. “Why do you call us angels?”
“Because I know in my heart that’s what you are, at least to me.” She led them to her table sat them down, and started to make tea.
Ally wondered, so she asked, “Do you believe in God now?”
“Oh yes. After seeing you two, ‘from another world’ simply disappear on me, I started to believe God sent me two angels to lead me back to Him. Praise Jesus!”
Ally met Joel’s eyes and smiled. “Looks like we accomplished our task here, then!” But her smile turned into a frown. “But that means it isn’t so simple as finishing our task.”
Joel nodded. “I think you are right.”
Ally shook her head. “Shit!”
Both Joy and Joel turned their heads to face Ally. “What did you just say?” Joel peered deep into her eyes.
Ally glanced at Joy before focusing on Joel. “Sorry. Not sure where that came from. For some strange reason, it just seemed the right word to use.”
Joy sat cups of hot tea before them. “So, is this the problem you are having?”
Joel sighed. “How do I explain this to you? Without confirming or denying our angelic status, I believe I can confirm that we are from another world, another dimension, if you will, than your own. Ally here has a special ability that no one else has in her world, of feeling what others feel. When she was here last, we fear she may have developed an unhealthy connection to this world, so she comes here anytime she tries to go anywhere.”
Joy banged her fist on the table. “I knew it!”
Joel and Ally both responded, “Knew what?”
“That you are both angels!”
Joel threw up his hands. “This is hopeless.”
Joy’s voice grew quieter. “Could you two come to see my friends play bridge, and do your disappearing act for them?”
Joel’s eyes grew big. “No way!”
Ally threw up a hand. “Hold on. Why do you want us to do that?”
“Because of what Joel said the last time. That belief in God is based in a relationship with him. You have to experience it to believe.”
Ally turned to Joel. “Maybe that is what we need to do to finish this out? Maybe then my link to this world would be broken?”
Joel thought for a moment. “You’re right.”
Ally sat up in her chair. “I am?”
“Yeah. Maybe is just a maybe. We could go through an endless list of maybes. I need more than a maybe to justify breaking a big rule established by the Big Boss.”
“But it could result in many more believing in God.” Ally crossed her arms.
“It could also be dismissed and used to justify disbelief as well.” Joel crossed his arms.
Ally responded, “But it worked for Joy here?”
Joel said, “But like I said earlier, individuals have individual responses to such events. You can’t predict how anyone will react. Apparently God knew how Joy would respond, which is why he sent you here.”
Joy nodded. “He’s right. For the past two years, I’ve watched an atheist program on the Internet and the regularly dismiss such experiences as coincidences, hallucinations, the placebo effect, and the list goes on and on.”
Ally understood the words she spoke, though she knew she shouldn’t. At least she got the idea she was conveying. “But some would believe, wouldn’t they?”
“Maybe.” Joel drank a gulp of his tea. “But those people would likely believe in other circumstances as well. Those are the people with ears to hear. That is the major difference between your world and this one. Most people in your world, Ally, do have ears to hear. Too many here, do not.”
Joy placed a finger on her chin. “I wonder, Ally, when did you first noticed this disbelief in you?”
“While in this world.”
“I know that.” Joy took a sip of her tea. “What I want to know is when you first experienced it while you were here?”
“Oh.” Ally gave it some thought. “I know Joel noticed I was being influenced by this world upon arriving in it. But I believe the first time I recall noticing unbelief in me was . . .“ Ally glanced at Joy.
“Go on dear, say it.”
“When I first opened up an emotional connection with you.” Ally bit her lip, afraid of Joy’s reaction.
“Any why do you suppose you detected it?”
“Because you didn’t believe at the time?”
“Exactly.” Joy smiled. “So now that I believe, what do you think the result would be if you connected to me?”
A big smile grew on Ally’s lips as she realized where Joy was going. “That it might reverse that connection! Oh, Joy! You’re brilliant!” She jumped up and hugged Joy. Joy’s hug was as warm and loving as Ally imagined it would be.
Then Ally met Joel’s eyes to see what he thought of Joy’s solution.
Joel held up his thumb. “Sounds logical to me. You didn’t finish what you were sent here to do: Not only to help Joy here believe, but for you to experience unbelief so you might empathize with those who don’t believe as well. However, He didn’t intend for you to stay in that state.”
“So he sent me back here to finish my task!” Ally said to Joy, “Hold on, I’ll open a connection with you.”
Ally closed her eyes and willed to open herself to Joy. She prepared for the worst, but instead of the disabling emotion of disbelief she experienced last time, she received an emotion she could only describe as blessed assurance.” She opened her eyes to see both Joy and Joel with their mouths gaping while they stared at her. “What? Is something wrong?”
Joel shook his head. “No, everything is perfect. You are glowing with divine light.”
Joy nodded, then waved bye as she faded from view.
Joel’s house appeared before Ally.
Joel materialized before her. He scanned the area before facing Ally with a big smile. “Let’s go see Kaylee, She needs to see this before it fades away.”
“Joel, one question.”
“Am I supposed to understand that I’m healed of my unhealthy connection by our sudden departure from Joy?”
“Unless you initiated it, I would say that our sudden departure was the Big Boss’s way of saying you’re healed.”
Ally breathed a sigh of relief. “Good, because I didn’t initiate it either. That means we don’t have to get a divorce. Right?”
Joel smiled. “You are correct.”
Ally wrapped him in a hug. “That’s wonderful news. I’m not sure what I would do without you.”
Ally released him, and noticed tears flowing down his face.
Ally said, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m crying because I know with a certainty that at some point, I will have to do without you.”
“Awe!” They hugged each other for a while before going inside to tell Kaylee all that had happened.