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.