Welcome to the very last chapter of this story. To be honest, I almost didn't want to post it. It feels kinda weird and sad to finally have it ended. But before I do, I wanted to give one last thanks to all my dedicated readers:
Yva J, you have been right here from the beginning. Thanks for sticking by and for all the great reviews. Also, thanks for catching all those typos I had! The encouragement was wonderful, you're awesome!
Garjzlavarden, you too have been here from day one, always leaving this story some great feedback. Thanks for every word. You totally rock!
Jenni-OnThisSide, you have also been here the while time. I've loved all of your comments and I'm glad you've enjoyed the story. You're swell!
actingbug1... :sigh: what can I say about you? Your spontaneous reviews have done a number of things. You've made me laugh, you've made me cry, you've definitely made me blush. Mostly you've made me smile. Thanks for that!
Zarz, all your comments have been so encouraging. I'm very glad you've jumped in and I'm happy that you have been enjoying it all. You're great!
So with that said, kudos and thanks to you all and I'll see you for my next project. Enjoy!
Ten Years Later – Summer of 1785
Twenty-three year old Sarah Chandler Proctor walked lazily down an empty dirt road, carrying a large covered basket in her hands, as she made her way home. She wore a smile on her face and she hummed happily. It was a beautiful summer day and the sun was now high in the sky, not covered by a single cloud. It was hot and sweat glistened on the young woman's forehead, but she didn't mind. She walked with her face tilted down towards the ground, to try and keep some of the sun out of her eyes that her straw hat did not block.
Her mind drifted to and from many different things. She thought about her last few hours in town and about the people she had visited with. She thought about her family and how happy everyone in it had been the last few years. Since their visit from the angels many years before, things had changed a lot in her life and she was sure that it was all for the better.
Finally she lifted her head once again to look further down the road. She noted that she was still a good ten minute walk from home and that though the sun was still high and bright, it had moved down a bit. It wouldn't be long until dusk.
As she glanced further down the road once again, she suddenly caught sight of a familiar figure leaning against a tree, just off the road, in the distance. She inhaled sharply and stopped in her tracks. Lifting her hand to block the sun from her face, she squinted her eyes to get a better look.
It couldn't be, could it? She almost didn't dare to hope, but the harder she gazed the more sure she was that she was right. Deciding to go ahead and chance it, she took a deep breath.
"Andrew?" She called out apprehensively. "Is that you?"
The figure stood up straight, nodded and called back out to her. "Sarah?"
Hearing the familiar voice, the woman dropped the basket she had been holding. She lifted her long skirts and took off running down the road towards him. As she got closer, she laughed with joy and did not even bother to stop when her hat flew off her head.
She finally reached him and ran into the angel's open and waiting arms. They embraced tightly, neither one saying anything at first. Finally, Andrew spoke up.
"My, you have grown since I last saw you." He whispered against her hair.
She laughed softly and pulled back so she could look up into his face. "You haven't changed at all. You look just as I remembered you."
"It seems to come with the territory." He smiled and shrugged. He glanced around, then reached down and took her hand. "Here, come sit over here with me."
He led her off the road and over to a fence that was running along beside it. She allowed him to lift her up and set her atop the rails of the fence and then she smiled happily at him.
"I always knew you would come back." She told him, feeling tears of joy in the corners of her eyes. "I just did not know when. So what are you doing back here?" She cocked her head.
He leaned easily up against the fence post. "I just finished up an assignment not too far from here and I thought I'd come back and see how one of my dearest friends has been doing in the last ten years. Twenty-three years old... you sure have grown up." He smiled wistfully at her. "How have you been?"
"Wonderful." She replied. "So much has changed since you and Tess were here when I was thirteen, but it has all been such good change. I got married about four years ago to a wonderful man. His name is Matthew and we have two children now."
The angel's eyes widened. "Do you really?"
She nodded. "Yes. Two girls, Olivia and Millie."
"And how about Elizabeth?" Andrew asked next. "How is she?"
"Lizzie is doing just fine, Andrew." Sarah told him. "She and Micah finally married about six years ago and they now have three children. Two boys and a girl. Do you know what they named their oldest son?" She asked him after a pause.
He shook his head, causing his long hair to brush against his shoulders. "What is his name?"
"Samuel." She stated softly. "Samuel Carroll Hambling."
Upon hearing the name, Andrew recalled seeing the young man who saved Micah's life ten years earlier. He felt tears sting his green eyes, but he blinked them away. After a moment, he found his voice again.
"I am so glad to hear that, Sarah." He told her gently. He smiled weakly. "I never forgot Samuel and I think he would have been honored to have Elizabeth's son named after him. How is the rest of your family?"
"They're doing well. Do you remember Thomas Goodson, the Loyalist that you and my father brought home?" She reminded him.
"Yes, I do." The angel confirmed. "Whatever became of him?"
"He lives next door to my parents." Sarah smiled. "He's like a part of our family now. He is married as well, to a young woman named Nancy and they have a few children of their own. Thomas and Micah help out my father in the store everyday. They are a great team, the three of them. I know my father is very thankful for their help.
"My mother is doing just grand." The happy young woman continued. "She actually had one more more baby about a year or two after you left. So I have a little brother, Michael, that you have never met before."
"And your other brothers and sisters?" Andrew asked curiously.
She nodded. "They are doing well too. James is twenty now. The war finally ended two years ago and James was away fighting during the last two years of it. I know that Benjamin wanted desperately to do his part for the states, but thankfully it ended before he was quite old enough. Both of them are so much like my father." She shook her head. "Miriam is fourteen now, just about my age last time you were here. If you think I have grown, you should see her. You probably wouldn't even recognize her."
Andrew chuckled. "You have all grown up. It's so good to see you again, Sarah." He added more softly.
She bit her lip and glanced down. "It's good to see you too, Andrew. I have really missed you, you know. The first few days after you left... they were really rough for me. It did not seem quite real, I kept expecting to see you every morning along the path to the barn. I even went out to the loft the next two mornings, even though deep inside I knew you wouldn't be there." She added with a weak smile.
He laid his hand on her shoulder. "The friendship that we share is special, Sarah." He told her, his green eyes gentle and sincere. "I'll never forget the night of Samuel's death when I blamed myself and you came to me in the loft. You were my very own angel that evening and that act alone touched me in a way that will stay with me forever."
She smiled. "You were not even at my house for more than a few days, but for some reason it felt like so much longer."
Andrew dropped his hand and then climbed up to sit beside her on the fence. He was quiet for a moment as he let his mind wander back a decade to those spring days he spent with the Chandler's. He took off his hat and ran his hand through his sweaty hair. Then, replacing the hat, he looked back at her.
"I want to give you something, Sarah." He stated, reaching into the small pocket of his waistcoat. He pulled out a small broach with the figure of an angel on it. He took her hand in his and gently laid the pin in it.
She picked it up and looked at it in awe. When she looked back up at Andrew, she had tears in her eyes. "It's beautiful, Andrew." She whispered, holding it to her chest. "Thank you so much, I love it."
He smiled. "I'm glad. I hoped you would."
She looked down to the front of her blouse and carefully pinned the gift to the garment.
"Now whenever I see this, I'll remember you. I could never forget you anyway," She added quickly. "But it's always nice to have something like this I can carry with me. I wish I had something to give you." She finished ruefully.
He shook his head. "No, that's alright. Don't worry about it. Getting the chance to see you again today was a gift enough for me. It is all I wanted. Besides, you didn't know I was coming." He added.
"Do you want to come home with me?" She asked him hopefully. "We're all having supper at my parents' house tonight and I know you would be welcome. I'm sure my father would love to see you too."
"I wish I could, but I'm afraid I can't." He sighed with regret. "I have another assignment to begin tonight. I told Tess I'd meet her there. It's pretty crucial too and I gave her my word that I would not be late."
Sarah's eyes lit up when she heard the older angel's name. "Tess? Are you still working with her?"
"Yes. She is still my supervisor, though in my defense, I don't think I need one nearly as terribly as I did last time I was here." He boasted playfully. "I'm sure she would beg to differ, but she's not here right now so I can boast all I want."
She grinned at her friend's antics, then a solemn look came over her face once again. "I'm sorry you cannot come have supper with us. I guess that means you will have to be on your way soon."
"Yes, I will."
"I hate goodbyes." She cast her eyes downward.
"I do too." He exhaled. "And I know that in my line of work, I've had to say quite a few of them. But Sarah, let's just not say 'good bye' this time, alright?"
She looked at him curiously. "You are just going to... leave?"
"Oh no." He shook his head quickly. "I would never do that. I just meant, let's say something else instead. Something like 'I'll see you later' or 'until next time'. Normal 'goodbyes' are just too final for my tastes."
"Does that mean you're coming back again?" She asked hopefully.
"I hope to someday. You and your family are my friends and it would be nice to see again, even if you have grandchildren by that time." He smiled. "But even if I don't ever make it back here, Sarah, you have eternity to look forward to. I will see you again."
For the third time, the young woman felt tears well up in her eyes. "That is so beautiful."
"It really is, but it is also the honest truth. There are never any real good byes." He glanced up at the quickly setting sun, then back at his friend. "It looks like I am going to have be moving on now."
She nodded and reluctantly let him help her down from the fence. They wandered back onto the middle of the road and both just looked at one another silently for a few moments. It was obvious that neither one quite knew what to do or say. There was nothing that was going to completely numb the pain of the departure.
Finally Andrew just silently opened up his arms for a hug. Seeing this, Sarah readily walked into his embrace and they stayed that way for a time. Eventually Andrew unwilling pulled back and glanced up at the sky once more.
"Is it time?" Sarah whispered.
"It's time." He confirmed just as quietly.
"I love you, Andrew." She took a deep breath and said softly. "You'll always hold a very special place in my heart. No matter how old I get and no matter how long it is until I see you again."
"I love you too, Sarah." He replied sincerely. "And God does too. Don't ever forget either of those."
"I won't." She promised hoarsely.
Andrew reached out his hand and slowly pushed a stray strand of hair out of the young woman's face. Then he leaned forward and gently kissed her atop her forehead.
"Till we meet again." He told her softly. With those words, he straightened up, gave her a smile, then turned and began walking down the road.
Sarah continued to stand there where he left her and watch his retreating back as he got further and further away. Finally she inhaled deeply and reached up and grasped the broach on her blouse.
"Till we meet again." She whispered under her breath.
And she continued to stare after him until the angel disappeared into the sunset.