It's literally been 7 years since I started this story and I would just like to thank those of you who have stuck around this long. It means the world to me. Hope you all are well! :)
Much later, Monica leaned back against Andrew's strong chest and sighed with contentment as he finished shampooing her hair. He had insisted on running her a bath and she had agreed with a smile, but only if he joined her. They had already spent nearly an hour in there, reminiscing and talking about anything and everything that wasn't their current situation. Much like Andrew had done the night she had ended her human life, they talked of passed assignments and memories and shared stories. The time that they had spent working together seemed like a lifetime ago. So much was different now, so much had changed.
"This is so perfect, being with you … it feels so right," she said softly, snuggling further into his embrace. For the first time since this had all begun all those months ago, Monica felt like she could breath easy and not focus on all the negative things, if just for a short while. In that moment, she felt whole and warm and so wonderfully loved. The thoughts of separation, consequences, and choices to be made were miles and miles away.
"It certainly is," Andrew replied, pressing a kiss to the side of her face, his heart swelling with love for her. He was positive that if time were to freeze in that instant and he never did another thing but hold her and love her, he wouldn't want for anything ever again. She was everything to him, absolutely all that he needed.
"I could stay here forever," she mumbled sleepily, echoing his thoughts out loud. The bubbles had all but dissipated and the water was beginning to turn cold when Andrew finally suggested they get out – staying precisely there forever wasn't exactly an option, as nice as it sounded. And whether she would admit it or not, he knew how exhausted she was, emotionally and otherwise. It was nearing dawn by then and he knew that sleep would do them both some good.
Andrew took her hand and helped her out of the bath, wrapping her up in a huge fluffy towel, and when she was dry, he slipped a big t-shirt over her head. From the smell of the fabric against her skin, she knew that it was one of his.
"It's a good look for me but … don't you think I'm a little overdressed?" She mused, turning and reaching her arms around his neck, grinning and planting a soft kiss to his lips. He had been so good to her, always, but it was especially obvious to her tonight how incredibly loving and gentle and compassionate he could be. She knew that she would never be able to truly express just how thankful she was for his presence in her existence over the years, or just how much she loved him now. She felt a twinge of grief in her heart at the mere thought of anything else coming between them, but she tried her best to push the idea out of her mind. She couldn't let herself go there, not tonight. Not when things were so unbelievably perfect.
Andrew couldn't help but laugh at her attempt to change his mind about sleeping. He stroked his fingers through her damp hair and sighed, still getting used to the many things about her that were so different from before, though he couldn't say truthfully that he didn't like them. She let him towel dry her hair and comb it out smooth. There was something so sweet about the simple act, him brushing out her hair, Monica had to blink back tears.
"You are precious and beautiful," he said softly when he was finished, kissing her cheek lightly, "but I can see how tired you are. A little sleep never hurt anyone, not even an angel. And the shirt, well … I just want you to be warm."
She thought about arguing, but knew it wouldn't do any good. She was tired, after all.
"Okay," she agreed, "but you better stay with me the whole time. I won't be warm otherwise, even in your shirt ..."
"Of course, baby," Andrew replied with a chuckle, "I wouldn't dream of being anywhere else."
Monica awoke sometime later to sunlight streaming through the bay window of the bedroom. The first thing that crossed her mind was that she had slept soundly, dreamlessly for the first time in a long time. Andrew was still asleep beside her, his arm draped across her, keeping her warm. The light coming through the window was illuminating the golden locks of his hair and she was momentarily mesmerized by how handsome he was. His evenly tanned skin, strong muscles, chiseled features … everything about him was perfect. She took the next stretch of time while he slept to just study him, admire him, feeling incredibly lucky and blessed that, even if it was for just a short while, he belonged to her.
Try as she did to keep thoughts of their situation out of her head, she couldn't help that her mind was wandering. Thinking about the impossible decision they had to make made her want to be sick. How in the world would they choose? Quickly, tears began to form and fall from her eyes at the very thought. As if he could sense that she was upset, Andrew woke almost immediately, alarmed to find her in tears.
"What is it, what's the matter?" He asked, his voice full of concern. Though he didn't say it out loud, he was suddenly terrified that she was indeed regretting the previous night, or that he had hurt her somehow, but she was already shaking her head.
"I'm sorry, it's nothing …" she replied, hating that she'd made him worry, "I just … I don't want to think about losing you, Andrew, especially now. Last night was more perfect than I can say … I can't imagine walking away from this, from you ..."
Andrew didn't waste another minute getting her into his arms. It had been too good to be true, their small respite from tears and heartache and hopelessness. All the happiness and bliss of being together now didn't change the fact of the matter, and that was that they had a choice to make. They couldn't ignore it and just hope that it went away.
"We have another choice," he reminded her softly, pulling away to look into her eyes, "we would be together, we wouldn't have to walk away ..."
Monica didn't answer for several minutes, her mind a whirling pool of uncomfortable and unwelcome images. The passed year had had a radical impact on who she was, how she saw the world, what she thought of it all. She truly would never feel the same about being on Earth again. She was having a difficult time of making sense of it in her own head, let alone communicate these thoughts to Andrew.
"Andrew … I don't know if I could do that again ..." she said, looking away from him, "I didn't handle it so well the first time, I was a mess ..."
He knew it was the last thing she wanted to talk about, but they would have to discuss it at some point. Prolonging the inevitable didn't make it any easier. He could see that, for reasons that he couldn't understand because he hadn't experienced it with her, she was terrified of the idea of being human again. He couldn't exactly blame her, he knew it had been more than rough for her, obviously. It seemed like every time the subject was brought up, even talking about it was painful for her. Knowing what she had been through, what she had felt, how alone she had been made his heart physically ache in his chest.
"It wouldn't be like that this time, baby, I'd be with you," Andrew said, trying to reason with her, "every step of the way, I promise."
"You can't promise that," she argued stubbornly, shaking her head, "as humans, we can't predict the future. We wouldn't be protected from illness or … or death. And then what?"
Monica knew that thinking that way was not helpful, but she just couldn't shake the fear from her mind. The thought of being human, vulnerable, and on their own was beyond frightening. She had made that choice before in a moment of defiance and weakness. When it came right down to it, she hadn't meant it at all. She knew in her heart that if they were to make this choice, she would live a life constantly fearing that at any moment, something tragic could separate them forever again.
"Come here, come with me for a second," Andrew said after a few moments of thought-provoking silence. He had an idea.
"Okay," he began, taking her hand and pulling her up out of the bed, "picture this – a morning, just like this one, sunlight shining through the window. I wake up and the most beautiful woman in the entire world is laying next to me. Even though I want to wake her just to tell her how beautiful she is, I let her sleep because I can't bear to disturb that sweet, peaceful look on her face. I stumble sleepily to the shower and get dressed for work and when I emerge ten minutes later ready for the day, she's already gone downstairs."
Still ahold of her hand, Andrew lead Monica down the stairs and into the kitchen of the cabin. Turning towards her, he continued,
"I follow the smell of coffee in the air to the kitchen and find her there with her hands folded around a steaming mug and a grin on her face. I take her in my arms and kiss her good morning and see that she's attempting to make breakfast. As sweet as she is for that, I take over because, well … cooking really isn't her strong suit. Over eggs and toast, or pancakes and bacon, we talk about her plans for the day, my projects coming up at work. She lets the dog out and reminds me of the time, she doesn't want me to be late again. I ask her to join me for lunch around noon, because for once I won't be in a meeting. I kiss her again, tell her I love her and I head to the office, already counting down the seconds until I see her again. My morning drags and my mind wanders. It isn't soon enough that she peeks her head into my office with a smile and asks if I'm ready to go. Though our visit is quick, it's enough to recharge me and gets me through the rest of the day. I send her off to her afternoon yoga class or book club meeting and tell her that I'll be home by six with steaks to grill and a bottle of her favorite red wine."
Andrew paused his narrative for just a moment and stepped closer, tucking a strand of her long hair behind her ear, his lips turning up in a lop-sided grin.
"So, I get home and as promised, I've got steak and wine and she greets me happily, as if I've been gone a week, not just a day. Immediately, she launches into a story about her wonderful afternoon, chattering away about a new friend she made or activity she signed up for as I get the steaks ready for the grill. I let her fix the salad and soon enough, we're enjoying our meal, toasting to my upcoming promotion and the three day holiday weekend. She meets my eyes over her glass of wine and I am captivated by her, sure that no one on this earth has ever loved another person as much as I love her. Later, I take her upstairs and show her just how much, loving her from head to toe. You see, we've been trying for a baby and … well, practice makes perfect. Before I fall asleep, I tell her one more time how much she means to me and as I drift off, my last thoughts are a prayer of thanks to God that I have been blessed to have her and another that I have the gift of waking up the next morning to do it all again."
By the time he had finished, tears were streaming from Monica's maple colored eyes. She couldn't seem to help but cry as his words fully sunk in. She was nearly overcome with emotion as she tried to process all that he had just said. It certainly sounded extraordinary, the way he told it. Waking up each morning to each other, a normal life … having a family. He knew that she had always entertained thoughts of having a family. She'd be lying outright if she were to say otherwise.
"Andrew, I ..." she started to reply, the words to express what she was feeling not coming so easily. Very suddenly, she was overwhelmed with the urge to get outside, to get some fresh air. Turning on her heel, she fled the room, grabbing a jacket off the coatrack by the back door on her way out. Ignoring Andrew's call after her, she took off at a jog towards the walking path in the woods, desperately needing to be alone with her racing thoughts.
Of all the things that he could have said to make her second guess everything, he had nailed it right on the head. There were two things of which she was certain. One, walking away from her existence as an angel, willingly, giving up the only life she'd ever known save for the last year, was an undeniably terrifying idea. And two, losing Andrew forever was even more terrifying. Especially now, especially after what they had shared the previous night, after the picture that he had just painted for her of what their life together as humans could be like.
"Father, please ..." she whispered aloud finally, her voice hoarse from the pent up emotion, "I don't know what to do, I still don't understand any of this. The choices we have … I can't seem to get a grip on one or the other. I just … I need some guidance here, please. I – I need help deciding, I feel trapped between two choices that I can't even make sense of ..."
Her prayer was more of a plea. Truthfully, she felt utterly incapable of deciding something so significant. Even with Andrew right there by her side, the confusion and panic that she felt over all of this was suffocating. She hadn't felt so alone and helpless since …
And then, as if on cue, the memory came to her like it had happened yesterday. An assignment, long ago, that had changed her, that had helped her see things differently, had helped her to learn how to trust when she felt like she had nothing and no one who knew or understood. All of the sudden, it seemed as though her mind was flooded with thoughts of this one particular assignment and she couldn't shake it, try as she might to push it away and focus on the here and now. A peculiar idea, both unwelcome and fascinating at the same time, was rapidly forming in her head. She was so wrapped up in it that she didn't even realize Andrew had joined her until his voice cut the air and interrupted her dilemma.
"Monica, I'm sorry … I didn't mean to upset you with those things I said, I was just trying to … to help," he said with a sigh, unsure of what to say next. He didn't know what kind of reaction he had expected, but it hadn't been that. He had simply been trying to give her an idea, at least his idea, of what they might could have together if they chose to be human. He hadn't meant to scare her and judging by the bewildered look on her face right then, he had done just that. It was several minutes after that when Monica was able to focus on him and found her voice.
"No, please don't apologize … you said nothing wrong, Andrew. It's me ... I'm just … I – I don't know what to say, I've just been thinking about … um ..."
She felt like she couldn't get it together, that she was incapable of speaking what was on her mind, yet again. And right now, with him standing there, looking at her like that … should she even share this idea with him? It was crazy, outlandish, she couldn't believe that she had even thought of it.
If Andrew was confused in the slightest by her words, he didn't show it. Stepping forward, he wrapped her up tightly in his arms and held her close.
"Whatever it is, you can tell me, you know that," he said softly, pulling away just slightly, "but can we go inside? You're freezing ..."
Monica hadn't even realized that she was shaking from the cold. She nodded without speaking and he grasped her hand in his and lead her back to the house. She hadn't managed to go very far, only a few hundred feet into the tree line. Once inside, Andrew found a blanket and tugged it around her shoulders, trying his best not to let the look in her eyes trouble him too much. Something was definitely on her mind, something more than just what he had said. He sat down on the sofa, pulling her down with him, and took her cheek in his hand, green eyes boring into her soul.
"I wish I could read your mind, baby … but I can't. Please tell me what you're thinking," he begged her, desperate to know what had gotten into her to make her act this way.
She hesitated briefly, taking a deep breath to stave off the overwhelming urge to be sick. She was not at all sure of what she was about to say.
"Do you remember, Andrew … the assignment that I had that time at the bus station, when I temporarily lost my memory?" She asked him, her voice only just above a whisper.
"I do …" he replied softly, narrowing his eyes, wondering what she could possibly be getting at by bringing up something that happened so long ago.
"I remember feeling so alone, not knowing who I was or … what I was doing there," she continued, ignoring the twist in her stomach, "and remember, you were sent to help me and … I didn't even know you, like we had never met ..."
"I remember," he said, looking at her curiously, "that was hard, I … I hadn't thought about it in years."
"I know, me either," she continued, looking away from his piercing gaze, "the Father, He … He did that, He took my memory away so that I could learn something, about trusting Him when I felt alone ..."
Andrew was doing his best to follow her, trying not to look too confused. An odd feeling had started to settle in his stomach at her last words but he was trying to ignore it.
"Right ..." he said, playing along with her, "but I have to admit, I'm a little lost. What exactly are you trying to say here, Mon?"
She turned her eyes back to meet his, trying to keep her voice steady and her lower lip from trembling too much.
"I'm saying that … maybe we don't have just the two choices, maybe there's another way," she answered, not pausing to give him time to reply, "Andrew … I know that the Father can take my memory of you away, He's done it before ..."
Andrew wasn't quite sure that he had heard her right. She couldn't have said what he thought she had just said. He stood up and paced a few feet away, dragging his hands through his hair and sighing heavily. Turning back to her, he shook his head in astonishment.
"You can't mean that, Monica … "
Hot tears slipped down her cheeks again, her heart lurching painfully at the look on his face. In that moment, she wished that she could take the words back. Somehow, she found the strength to continue.
"Andrew … being human again is simply not an option for me, I can't do it; even if you're with me, not having the Fathers love in my heart is not something I ever want to experience again. I wasn't created to live like that and … and neither were you. But walking away from you forever, especially now feels impossible. I – I couldn't, there's no way. But if … if He can take my memories away for an assignment, He can do it again now. He can take our memories of each other away so that we don't have to make this decision. It would be like … like we'd never met all those years ago … "
It was a physically painful thought for him, thinking about not knowing her. He very nearly couldn't remember a time in his existence that she wasn't a part of. His first instinct, first gut reaction was a resounding 'no.' But once she said it, the gears started turning in his own head. For several long minutes, he could only look at her incredulously, unsure if she was crazy or an absolute genius. Missing her over the last year had almost destroyed him and it had literally killed her. Being apart was not an option, not after everything they'd been through up to now, and being human, even together, was not an option in Monica's mind, he understood that. Though he wished with every fiber of his being that she would try, he couldn't consciously talk her into doing something that scared her so much.
"Don't you see, Andrew … " she whispered, "if He says yes … it's the perfect solution."
After a beat of silence, in which Andrew felt as though the world might fall down around them, he stepped back to her side and took her face between his hands and kissed her hard, deep, leaving her breathless for the hundredth time in the last two days.
"Okay," he whispered back, tears burning in his own eyes at the very thought, "let's ask Him."