Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Bella died in 2012, a twenty four year old with a Brownstone walk-up apartment, a college degree from Concordia (not that Concordia) and a cat named Hugo who wound up with her neighbor.
She heard the tires screech and closed her eyes against her fate, a fast moving silver Cadillac. When she opened them again she was in a round room made up completely of stained glass. Including the floor where the only piece of furniture stood; a smooth wooden church pew.
She was wearing a comfortable white cotton dress and had never felt healthier or stronger in her life.
Life. What did that mean now? Surely she had died and if not, this was no hospital, not even in her quirky part of Portlandia.
She looked around; it was like being in a giant glass egg. The chamber depicted many earthly beauties; Dark blue oceans mixed with white surf, whiskey colored mountains, and rich fields of yellow and orange flowers that seemed to have been caught dancing.
There were also wondrous new visions she had never witnessed outside a Dr. Suess movie; Purple forests with fat squatty trees and green icebergs the size of volcanoes. There were yellow clouds that swirled over black deserts that sparkled like the night sky.
Bella learned in the next few minutes that even in Heaven, God was more than a physical being. He was a presence and as she walked around the glass room like a child in a museum she felt Him join her.
"I'm sorry I didn't stop that Bella." She looked around but saw no one. "I could have, but I didn't. It was your time and to be honest, I could use your help." His voice was not as deep and foreboding as she had imagined. It was warm and kind and sincere. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was a small creature being held in a large protective hand.
"You're an Angel Maker, Bella." He continued and his very words surrounded her in womb-like comfort. "You don't know it yet but you have a very special destiny."
Bella's voice was little more than a squeak but God didn't need to hear her to know what she had said.
"But...I was a virgin." A part of her was appalled that she brought up the subject at all, especially as the very first thing out of her mouth. But she had been saving herself for someone that she would now never meet and that was the one thing her heart cramped over when she thought of what she left behind.
She almost laughed at herself but knew that she was on an emotional teeter-totter and could just as easily cry.
"Take a deep breath dear Bella." His voice suddenly became a swift breeze that filled the chamber with sweet air. As she filled her lungs with it a peace flooded her saddened soul.
She closed her eyes and that was when she felt real arms around her.
God was right there, embracing her like a good friend, or her father.
He smelled like snow and his heart was beating so strongly that she could feel it through both their clothes.
"I'm sorry for everything you lost." Genuine remorse was thick in his voice but he kept her close.
That was also the second time he apologized to her, and although she still didn't know if she was even really experiencing what she was experiencing, she accepted it.
It was then that she allowed herself to weep. She rested her head on his shoulder and felt the cloth grow damp with her forfeited existence.
They stood together for a long time. Finally when she opened her eyes she couldn't see him anymore but she still felt his embrace. She could have rested her head back onto his invisible shoulder if she wanted to.
Actually, she did.
"I promise you a purposeful existence Bella." His voice was right there in her ear and she even felt her hair move with his breath. "And I promise you will know love."
His embrace dissolved into her as she stepped back and looked up at the stained glass sky.
"What do I do?" She asked the motionless birds over the blueberry ocean.
"What you were created to do," came the quick but cryptic reply.
A door made up of hundreds of bright auburn shards stood against a glass mountain. Bella had not noticed it until it opened and when it did she saw a curved passageway made up of intertwined ivy.
A slim shadow fell across the stone footpath a moment before a young man stepped into view. He was little more than a boy really and had light brown wavy hair. He wore a white shirt, white vest, and white pants with a crease in them that could break arctic ice.
He also had wings, big soft wings that were as white as his polished shoes.
"Hello Bella, my name is Jasper." He was gentle andso genuine that she knew at once he would never lie to her. "I'm your anam-chara, your soul friend." His eyes were the kind of grey blue that's only seen when the ocean reflects storm clouds. "I'm here to be your big brother and to answer all your questions."
"Well," Bella's own eyes clouded over. "I hope you have all day,"
Jasper liked her immediately. He appreciated wit above all. "I have a lot longer than that," he answered. "And so do you."
Bella walked with Jasper down the curved ivy passageway for only a short distance before he stopped at a bamboo doorway.
"This is where you live." He told her.
She opened the door after first fighting the urge to knock and it was like something right out of Gilligan's Island. That is except for a ton of modern touches that she couldn't have done without. Apparently they get Hi-Def in Heaven.
"Does everyone live in these kinds of tree houses?" She asked as she walked around the large wooden structure while beams of sunlight straddled the dress straps on her otherwise bare shoulders.
Jasper smiled, "No, actually, we all perceive Heaven differently, but I really like what you did with the place." It was far from a tree house. Jungle palace was more like it.
Bella's eyes settled back onto the wiry Angel in front of her. "What's an Angel Maker?"
Jasper sat down in a big maroon Papasan chair that made his pants come up high enough to see his legs above the white socks he had on.
Bella chuckled. "Maybe I could re-think the furniture."
"Nonsense," Jasper said as he crossed one leg with a flourish. "It's tremendously comfortable; in fact I'll make sure I have one by the time I return to my own place." He looked thoughtfully at her. "Mine will be white though."
"So, you just think of it, and it happens?"
"So, if we went to your place right now, it would be there?"
"You could say that."
"What do you mean?"
"My place doesn't exist right now because it's not needed," he told her. "Kind of an 'out of sight out of mind' thing."
"Where is it?" Bella asked. "How far away do you live?"
Jasper gestured to another chair, a twin to the big round cocoon he was nesting in. "Why don't you have a seat and I'll show you."
Bella sat down in the Papasan chair and it felt just like it had in college. It was plush and comfortable and deep enough to require a climbing anchor.
"Watch this." Jasper closed his eyes and the room before her sifted like blowing sand. It changed shape and color and within seconds they were in a simple but modern high rise apartment with big windows that looked out over a moon soaked city.
"This is my place." Jasper looked down. "Except for the chairs we're sitting in of course, but I'll return them, and us, in a minute."
"What city is this?" Bella could see out the low windows and noticed that they were nestled in amongst many other buildings. Jasper had obviously not chosen the penthouse.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I died on Earth long before buildings grew this tall but I call it Moon City."
"You chose a more literal definition of the jungle you now live in," Jasper observed. "But I think we're a lot alike. We both like to be suspended and surrounded."
"Wow." Bella stared at him. "Suspended and surrounded huh? You are a Freudian's wet dream do you know that?"
Jasper remained passive for a moment. Bella began to suspect that she had misread his humor threshold and when his cheeks began to brighten she was sure of it. It wasn't until he howled with laughter and slapped his knee repetitively that she knew she was off the hook.
The room sifted again and they were re-deposited in her bungalow abode as he wiped tears from his eyes.
Bella wiggled more into her chair and looked around for a bookcase. She found several; they were all filled with exotic titles intermixed with all of her very favorite tomes.
"I hope my bathroom has a hot tub as big as this chair." Bella said while she followed the rotation of the ceiling fan that looked like it was made up of huge lily pads.
"Well, we really don't need bathrooms anymore," Jasper found himself constantly smiling around her.
"What!" Bella tried to sit up but the chair just made her look like a puppy trapped in a flower box. "Does that mean we don't eat? What is Heaven without pizza? And bubble baths? And PIZZA!"
Jasper's laughed at her comic outrage. "We have plenty of pizza and you probably have a huge hot tub in your 'bathing' room already." Jasper made quote marks with his fingers. A gesture he learned from Emmett.
Bella began wiggling again, but this time it was clear that she was trying to get out of her chair.
Jasper held up his hand and Bella settled. "Do you know how you can sometimes make yourself yawn just by opening your mouth for a few seconds?" Jasper spoke soothingly, hypnotically.
"I want you to try it now, but this time when you yawn, imagine that your lungs are being filled with enough helium to lift you right out of your chair."
Bella opened her mouth. A moment later she floated up and into the air like a soap bubble. She wafted away from the chair, hovering a few inches above the polished wooden floor blinking down at Jasper.
"Swallow," he said.
Bella did, and the soap bubble popped. She was already running for the bathing room before her feet hit the floor.
Jasper watched her dash away then breathed in deeply through his nose and smiled. He might as well have been on vacation and quite enjoyed Bella's modern tree house interpretation of Heaven.
"Holy shit...uh crap...uh...MOLY! HOLY MOLY!" Came Bella's voice and Jasper could tell from the echo that she was deep within a large room indeed.
He was compelled to join her and walked into the grand wooded and stone chamber. It even had a large fire pit to go with the pond sized tub. Bella was standing in the middle of the room with her arms crossed nodding her head.
One wall was nothing but a series of lighted stone alcoves. Some had mirrors, some were stacked with puffy white towels, others still had nice Mediterranean decor.
"It's weird not seeing a toilet." She told him.
"It's one of the best parts of Heaven though." Jasper said. "Although I've been told that accommodations have improved greatly since my time."
They walked out of the room and onto a wraparound deck that had a sturdy high backed love seat. Jasper sat down but Bella leaned against the railing and felt the heavenly breeze. It smelled like snow again.
"Is God always watching us?" She asked.
"Yes and no." Jasper knew that wouldn't be good enough and he didn't wait for her to tell him so. "It's somewhere South of Jiminy Cricket but North of Santa Clause. He's not sitting on your shoulder watching everything you do, but he knows if you've been bad or good."
Bella looked over at him and saw that his large wings rose and fell with his breathing. "Will I get wings too?"
"Yes, but not for a while. You're young. Being an angel is like being a child again. You're going to go through a lot of physical and mental changes for the first several years but you'll get used to your new body soon enough."
"How long does it take to get them?"
"Are you in a hurry Bella?"
"No...actually, I'm worried that I won't like them."
Jasper quirked his eyebrow.
"I mean, they look great on you!" Bella giggled at the moment. "But...Do I have to have wings?"
He nodded his head solemnly. "They're already there Bella, you just can't see them yet. It takes about twelve years for them to come in properly, fifteen if we're lucky with you."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, once you grow wings you can't very well walk around on Earth unnoticed."
"I'm going back to Earth?"
"How far away is it?"
Jasper looked around. "Technically, we're still on Earth. Heaven exists all around the living, they just can't see it yet."
"What about Hell?" Bella's question was serious but not half as serious as Jasper's answer.
"Hell...is the absence of Heaven."
Bella nodded, she felt like she understood what he meant but had a feeling that it was far worse in practice.
They chatted away the afternoon and Jasper answered more questions. He explained how they didn't need bathrooms because things in their world had a way of disappearing as soon as they were out of sight, including food. She was fascinated by everything he had to say and every answer just lead to more questions.
Jasper told her once that the quality of her queries displayed advanced thinking as well as deep empathy.
"I can see why he needs you," he observed. "Spotting angels is nearly impossible but I have a feeling that you'll find new ways of doing things."
"Who is doing it now?"
"We have a small team but they're pretty overworked."
"How many are there?"
"There are four of them. Mr. C and the three E's." Jasper smiled brightly. He loved coming up with clever titles for the Heavenly Boards and Bodies he interacted with. "Carlisle, Esme, Emmett and Edward. Carlisle will give you your daily assignments. Esme figured out a fair system that spreads them all over the globe and they go down in teams of two."
"Is it dangerous?"
Jasper paused. "Why do you ask?"
"Teams of two?" She repeated. "The buddy system is a dead giveaway."
Jasper chuckled. "No, it's not dangerous, but it can be difficult and it works better if there are two Angels working together. Carlisle will take you through it. I believe he will even accompany you on your first trip down."
"I thought you said that we were already on Earth."
"We are, but it's like Emmett says, sometimes it's easier to use simplest terms and most convenient definitions."
"You got that from Emmett?" Bella giggled, she doubted he got the joke but reminded herself to discuss The Breakfast Club with Emmett when she met him.
Jasper pulled a silver pocket watch from his vest pocket and looked at it for a moment. He closed it with a click. "They'll be back soon but have a few more minutes if you have more questions."
"Is there a bowling alley in Heaven?"
"Several actually," Jasper chuckled.
"Can I gain weight here?"
"Not really, you look how you want to look don't you?'
"Well, that's the way you'll stay, except for your wings."
"Is it true that all dogs go to heaven?"
Jasper smiled but he was clearly confused by her assumption. "No, but you may have animals if you wish."
"Do we use these leafy hallways to get around?"
"Yes, but like our homes, the passageways look different to each of us. My hallways are sky bridges in Moon City."
"Can I change my mind about stuff like that?"
"Yes. Try it. Make this place into a...Into a..."
"Into a Vegas Hotel Suite!" Bella supplied as she spun around on the deck to look back into her open living room.
"You have the right idea," Jasper encouraged. "Just keep trying to imagine it Bella. Picture it in your mind, the more details the better."
After a shimmering hesitation the surroundings changed into the ultra-sleek interior of a fancy room at the Luxor Hotel. Bella had gone there on her twenty first birthday with friends. They played Let It Ride with Eisenhower silver dollars and got crop circle tattoos on their ankles.
"Can I ever see my friends and family again?"
"Yes and no, we have a place where you can go to follow their path but you cannot interfere and that makes it difficult for some Angels."
"What about reincarnation?" Bella thought of her bungalow again and the room sifted into place with a sound like rice falling inside a rain stick.
"It's an option for Angels but we lose conscious memory."
Jasper shrugged. "I haven't done it yet but I hear that once you go you are sort of wiped clean except for images in dreams and vague familiarity to your surroundings on Earth."
"Have I ever reincarnated?"
"No, you are what we call a seed soul. This was your very first time around the block."
"What will my daily routine be as an Angel Maker?"
"I think that's the cue to take you to meet the rest of them."
He took her back out into the round ivy passageway and they walked side by side.
"You will have to change your name for us," Bella told him. "You know, from Mr. C. and the three E's."
"Yes, of course!" Jasper put his hand on his chin. "Let's see...How about, Big C. Little B. and triple E?"
Bella shook her head politely.
"C.B. and E times three?" He tried.
"This time Bella wrinkled up her nose as she shook her head politely. She cleared her throat. "How about...One C, an E, a new B, and two more E's?"
Jasper looked at her silently for a long time before he laughed like a loon and took Bella's arm. "Newbie, that's a good one. They are going to love you and I have it on good authority that you will be a natural."
"How do you know?"
"It's a job that deals with a lot of variables at once, but you probably won't see it that way and that's what will make you good at it."
Bella smiled, she wasn't sure if it was a good answer or not but she liked it.
"I haven't been an anam-chara for a long time Bella," he continued. "But I think I understand why He put me with you."
"And why is that?"
That...is a story for another time because we're here." They stopped before the only door Bella had seen along their walk. It was made from dark wood and pitted with age. "Let's just say that I think it was as much for me as it was for you."
Two small and impossibly shiny brass letters were riveted to the door at chest level. A.M. Bella thought that he should have just called them the morning team but didn't have time to mention it.
Jasper did a knock and walk. "Howdy gang? How was the day's take?"
Edward had been on Carlisle's team for almost a year. He was a promising Angel Maker but like other seed souls, he was also somewhat still in shock.
He retained his personality as well as his education and he kept vivid memories of everyone he left behind. Each one became a bottled keepsake that floated on his consciousness like breakable buoys.
Carlisle told him that one day he would see this as a blessing not a curse but Edward had a hard time adjusting. His partner, Emmett, was assigned to be his anam-chara. Emmett had come to the department only a year or two before and together they had helped thousands of people find peace in the afterlife.
Esme was sitting with the other two E's at a round table at least as old as the door but smooth and stained with spilled wine. They had just gotten back from a day of what Emmett often called 'squinting duty' and Carlisle was sweeping out a custom gondola that took up one corner of the room.
Angel Makers used to just snap their fingers like Barbara Eden to transport to their Earthly destinations but Esme found the whole affair tacky and pointed out that even the Narnia kids got a wardrobe.
The next day Carlisle conjured a sky tram complete with a thick silk cable. The lush carriage that glided along it would have made Cinderella jealous.
Their Angel Maker's staging area looked like the inside of a castle with thick stone walls. The round oak table in the middle of the room screamed "Camelot" and the ornate throne shaped chairs only amplified that call.
Sconces sat along the walls, each filled with a golden flickering flame. They kept the room dimly lit but everything was extremely clean, almost sterile despite the suggested dark ages touch.
"Jasper's coming," Esme said. "And he has our new Angel Maker with him...Oh, she's lovely." Esme had certain abilities as a human that only strengthened as an Angel. She, like all Angels, was instantly gifted with an eidetic memory as well as what Emmett called "a significant processing upgrade." In her case it also boosted her ability see some things before they happened.
As a child it was just little things, like knowing that the telephone was about to ring. But as an adult it became a sixth sense that helped her make decisions about everything from which pasta to try to which man to marry.
When she got to Heaven it became something even greater. She could clearly see Jasper approaching with a pretty girl on his arm. She could feel the girl as well, she was sweet and smart and sassy and nervous.
Jasper's knock came and the door opened a second later.
"Howdy gang? How was the day's take?"
Carlisle answered for all of them. "Almost two hundred in Minneapolis and a hundred and fifty..." He looked over at Emmett who held one hand up with his fingers splayed. "...five, in Perth."
Jasper nodded. "That sounds pretty good, congratulations! I'll tell the boss. And now, may I introduce you to Miss Bella Swan." He still had his arm linked with hers and looked over with a smile. "She's a real spark plug too."
Esme was nodding and smiling. Her autumn brown hair surrounded her jade eyes with eternal October. She couldn't wait to get to know the dear thing.
Bella shook hands with all of them but the only one she really saw was Edward. He was handsome but not chiseled. He was also cheerful but not boisterous.
He was perfect.
She congratulated herself on her continued lousy timing in finding a super guy on the day she died and they all sat down at the table, which still had three chairs to spare.
"First of all," Carlisle began. "It's really more like Angel spotting. You see, Angels make themselves with their positive actions on Earth. Every selfless act grows our wings, every selfish act shrinks them."
"That's right," Emmett interjected with a snicker. "We just tag 'em and release 'em back into the wild."
This got a laugh from the rest of the group, including Jasper who had closed his eyes again and sat with his hands laced together on the smooth table.
"Do you mark them in some way then?" Bella asked.
"Actually," Carlisle put his elbows on the table and leaned forward. "We spread their wings for them when we see that they are clearly on the path of light."
Bella was beyond confused.
Esme reached into, of all things, her purse and produced a pair of tiny golden insects. They had four wings like dragonflies but they were very small and very bright. Bella thought back to the two small letters on the door outside.
They circled each other as they flew around the room. The sound of their wings was like someone flipping through the soft pages of a well-read paperback.
In the honey light they cast Bella could suddenly see shimmering wings rising above everyone's heads. The blurred colors swirled around like a drop of gasoline in a rain puddle.
"Your wings look lovely too Bella," Carlisle said.
She turned her head as is she was looking at a bug on her shoulder and there before her were the transparent feathers of her own astral wings. She reached out to touch them but her hand found only a few strands of hair.
Esme watched them dance together. They clearly had a relationship but she couldn't tell what it was, they never touched but they seldom flew far from each other. "We're trying them on Earth to help spot Angels," she said. "But they only work this well in Heaven...for now."
"Where did they come from?"
"Steve Jobs," Carlisle said. "That kid's a wizard."
"Well, you're just having a little recruitment party up here aren't you?" Bella's tone was light but her large smile suggested a sinister jab.
Everyone laughed, especially Edward who began watching Bella with an intensity that she found both frightened and exciting.
"What is a lost Angel?"
"We were," Carlisle said, putting his arm around Esme. "We had to live like ghosts for almost five weeks before the wranglers found us."
"It was awful." Esme shuddered. She opened her hand and held it up. The twin clockwork bugs fluttered down and fell over like newborn calves.
"Why are things so dysfunctional?" The words were out before she could stop them and her comment made Edward and Emmett look at each other just before breaking into gales of laughter.
Carlisle chuckled along with them but met Bella's gaze intending to answer her question as best as he could. "Spotting Angels is profoundly difficult. It's like reading something under water through two moving telescopes that have to be lined up just right. And, you only get split second glances."
"For me it's like looking through a kaleidoscope," Edward spoke for the first time. His voice was soft but confident. She got the feeling that he didn't often talk unless he had something important to say. "I just keep turning it until I can see their wings. You'll develop your own style but we'll help you."
"We won't really know how to explain it better until you go see for yourself," Esme added.
Bella looked around at them. She tried not to linger on Edward but it was like pulling a roller-skate key off of a powerful magnet.
"So, I was marked already." Bella said out loud, realizing that she woke up almost literally in the arms of God.
Carlisle nodded. "Five or six months ago." He looked over at Edward who blushed instantly.
Bella followed Carlisle's gaze. "Did you...spread my wings Edward?"
He nodded, his blush deepening. "You were pretty...easy to spot."
"What?" Emmett turned towards him. "You were on that campus for over an hour. You said it took longer than you expected."
Edward went as red as a pomegranate.
"I got distracted," he said quietly.
They spoke for only a few minutes more before Jasper insisted that Bella be allowed to rest up for the big day ahead.
Every one of the Angels gave Bella a hug before she left and when she felt Edward's chest pressed up against hers she nearly sighed with pleasure.
Jasper walked her to her door and took her by the hands. "What is it you want to ask me Bella?"
"I'm good." She tried again.
"See ya tomorrow."
Jasper stepped inside. "You have done so well today, I'm so proud of you. But there is a regret that's hurting you like a fist, I can almost see it. Please let me put your mind, your heart at ease. It's my whole purpose in Heaven at this moment to foster you."
Bella looked down as she spoke. "Can Angels fall in love?"
"Of course," he answered cheerfully. "You saw Carlisle and Esme."
She nodded. "Well, yes but I just thought they must be special."
"They are special, it's true, they were married as mortals and died together and to top it off they are now both excellent Angel Makers. But any of us can fall in love. Heaven wouldn't deny us love any more than it would deny us bubble baths or pizza."
Bella kept her eyes down. "And can we..?"
"Oh...Oooooh!" Jasper's pitch went from high to low, suggesting the something just clicked into place for him. It made her cheeks as hot if she were sunbathing in August.
"We aren't denied any part if the experience of love if that's what you're asking." He waited for her to finally look up before he smiled and strolled off with a wave.
That night she dreamt of a kiss in the clouds.
Bella sat next to Edward as they all rode the gondola out of what Emmett had called "The Morning Room" and sailed out over the kinds of places that she first saw in the stained glass egg she arrived in.
She hoped all morning that she would wind up next to him and when Emmett squeezed in on her other side and pushed her whole leg up against Edward's she reminded herself to thank him. That reminded her that she had reminded herself to discuss The Breakfast Club which they did briefly before Carlisle delicately cleared his throat.
They were headed to Chicago. The gentlemen on either side of her were going on to Oslo a bit later but would be spending the morning with the rest of the group which had become customary since Edward came aboard.
"It's time." Carlisle said, and as if it were waiting for his words, a cloud formed in front of the gondola. As soon as they entered it Bella felt Edward and Emmett grab her arms and then she was falling.
Her heart began bouncing in her chest like a cat in a car but she didn't even have time to ask what was happening before she felt Edward and Emmett land. A moment later she was lowered to the ground.
The clouds cleared and she was standing on a busy street corner in the shadow of tall downtown buildings that easily shielded most of the streets from the curious morning sun.
Chicago was cold but smelled nice for city. Carlisle picked a likely candidate, although Angel profiling was discouraged, and told Bella to keep her in sight and attempt to glimpse her wings. He did not see any Angels who had already been discovered yet and he hoped he would soon. That usually helped give the new team members an idea of what they were looking for.
Bella tried but saw only a woman in an aqua dress and black heels clopping towards a revolving door.
"We're going to lose her." Emmett said.
"Did anybody see..." Esme began but Edward was already on the move. He was behind her and his arms were spread wide in an instant. Just as quickly he was back with the group and smiling.
"Those were big ones," He said. "She must have started early...like you Bella." He wanted to cheer her up because she was frowning.
"Don't worry," Carlisle said. "This is how it will go for a while."
"How long is a while?" Bella asked.
He told her that it took him several days even with Esme's tutoring but assured her that she was going to be a natural.
Bella was getting sick of hearing stuff like that and the longer she failed the more they tried to assure her that she was going to out strip them all. By the time Emmett and Edward were supposed to leave for Oslo she hadn't so much as seen a sun flash in a side view mirror and she was barely holding in her frustration.
They had even pointed out several 'marked' angels walking around but she couldn't even see their wings. She saw Carlisle give Esme a look and the pity on his face made Bella's lip tremble.
Carlisle suggested that they go somewhere indoors. Emmett had his eye on a donut shop with bright yellow booths. Once inside Edward left the group and returned with glazed twists, maple bars, and chocolate éclairs. He also had coffee, orange juice, apple juice, milk, tea, hot chocolate, and water.
"Wow Edward," Emmett said, smiling. "You've got a bigger beverage selection than a first class stewardess."
"I didn't know what Bella liked," he said softly.
She chose milk even though she usually drank coffee. It was ice cold and went perfect with her éclair. She thought of the absurdity of five Angels eating an unhealthy breakfast in a Chicago bakery and it almost made her laugh.
Almost. It would take more than that though because she was thoroughly depressed and embarrassed by her dreadful attempts to live up to her legacy.
No one tried to cheer her up or offer any additional advice. They all just chatted away and gave her a moment away from the attention. Whenever a person or place in Heaven was mentioned that would naturally be foreign to a green bean like Bella, Edward would lean over and fill her in. His husky murmur in her hungry ear made her shiver from her scalp to her shoes.
She was surprised to find out that they had all been bowling, recently in fact. Edward was wearing white tri-tone shoes with an artistic number 9 emblazoned on the heels that he had conjured a week prior and showed them off proudly.
"When are you going to bowl again?" Bella asked.
"Whenever you'd like," Emmett said quickly. He elbowed Edward and it was about as subtle as the Super Bowl.
"We could go tonight. I'd like to spend some more time with you." Edward said the words with a fresh open face that showed no fear yet remained fragile and hopeful. He swallowed immediately after he spoke.
Bella needed that. She needed that sweet and sentimental invitation and it unlocked all the joy and pain she had felt over the last twenty four hours. She nodded her head and that only made her tears fly upwards for a second.
Esme just melted. She cocked her head to the side and made that "Aww" sound that only forced Bella's tears to squirt out hot and hurried. Carlisle offered her a handkerchief that had been sticking out of his jacket's breast pocket all morning as he had been aware of its necessity at some point. Possibly at Esme's suggestion.
Edward turned his whole body towards Bella. He was keenly aware that for whatever reason, he had just given this Angel an unexpected gift. Well, he intended to offer her a warranty.
"Jasper was only your first anam-chara, I would like to be your second and everyone at this table expects nothing from you but the chance to be your friend." He took one of her trembling hands in his. "You have been on my mind and in my heart since I first saw you five months and three weeks ago and I know that you're worried about all this Angel Making stuff but trust me, everyone gets to Heaven who needs to get there. You are not responsible for anything more than trying to help living Angels spread their wings before they die. It's noble, important even, but it's not vital, not really." He took a moment to breath. "All I'm saying is that we have it pretty good up here and we all can afford to pal around with you until you get the hang of this."
Not even Emmett had heard his anam-chara and partner talk that much and he wasn't done yet.
"I spent almost a year with the ghosts." He continued. "It made me all the more thankful when I got to Heaven that I had lived the kind of life that gave me the chance to be right here...right now...with you."
He blinked a few times but it was useless, two tears came rolling onto his cheeks. "You won't even be judged by whether or not you can do this job." He held it together but he was crumbling. "You are already admired...and desired...and even loved."
Emmett's mouth hit the table.
Carlisle's eyes were as big as planets.
Esme was a blubbering mess.
Bella hugged Edward and she was rewarded with his warm voice in her ear. "I prayed about you last night and do know what God told me?"
"No," she whispered.
"He told me that what you needed more than anything was for me to share my heart with you."
"I'm glad you did." She didn't know it could happen so fast. She felt like this was the first of many amazing lifetimes she would spend with the man in her arms.
When she opened her eyes to make sure that he was still there she saw something that made her gasp.
Through the tear filtered world she saw that several patrons of the bakery had shimmering wings. She was looking right through Edward's as a matter of fact.
"Oh!" Bella tried to stand up and bumped the table. She wanted to get to them all before she lost sight of all the lovely wings she saw. "Edward look!" She pointed and heard his gasp a moment before Esme did.
Esme had been crying like a Mandrake ever since Bella's first sniffle and saw exactly what she was pointing at.
There were at least ten people in the bakery with shimmering wings and from what she could see of the sidewalk outside, they could spend the whole day on that one city block alone.
Emmett wasn't much of a crier so it took him longer to join in but the sight of such a massive breakthrough in Angel Making was eventually enough to make the big guy's eyes first twitch and then leak.
The group stayed together that day and when Edward and Bella were not spreading Angel's wings they were holding hands. It was a day nobody on the team would ever forget and it was only going to get better for at least two of them.
They stepped into a white fog that appeared at Carlisle's request and were all seated in the smooth ascending gondola in a swift action that was not near as jarring as the dismount had been that morning. Before the clouds cleared and they were all in the murky embrace of the white, Edward took Bella's chin in his hands and gave her a kiss.
That was two dreams he had now shared with her.
When they sailed into their castle office Jasper was waiting for them.
"Hi'ya guys and gals!" He said. "How did the new kid do?"
Carlisle looked at Bella. "Do you want to tell him?"
She shook her head and looked down. Her hair did a pretty good job of hiding her face.
Jasper's shoulders slumped. He hated to see a good person down. Bella was predicted to bring great change but even the seasons change slowly. He was about to place a soothing hand on her shoulder when Emmett spoke.
"We did about twenty two hundred in Chicago." He sniffed loudly, a 'no big deal' affectation.
"Well, that's not...WHAT!" Jasper stammered.
"Tears of joy," Esme said. "That's the key to spotting them. We might never have known if not for Bella and Edward."
Jasper looked down and noticed the two holding hands for the first time.
"Good job." He said to them both. "I knew you could do it."
Where Bella walked through ivy passageways to traverse Heaven, Edward used glass elevators. He took her to his home, an old three story Victorian that creaked with every step.
They had orange soda and graham crackers and talked about things they liked on Earth.
It was kind of like a date except that they both already knew that they would be spending their forever together already.
Later, he took her to a black light bowling alley, Heavenly Lanes, what else, and she left with her own pair of white tri-tone saddle shoes and the emblazoned number 6 on her heel was dark blue, almost purple.
Bella kissed him a few times in the capsule shaped elevator that took them back to her place. She looked him right in the eyes when she told him that she was a virgin and wondered why it was so easy to talk about in Heaven when she had not told a soul on Earth.
Edward told her that he was only slightly more experienced than she was and suggested that they discover together how to be lovers.
"I like that word," Bella said. "Lovers, but are you sure it's okay for us to be doing this...you know...here?"
Edward nodded his head. "Are you kidding? It's all anybody does up here half the time."
Bella giggled and let him into her open island-esque abode. He started walking towards the lovely breeze coming from the balcony but she took him by the hand and instead walked him down the hall to her bedroom.
She had a big round skylight above her bed and the sliced moon spilled cool light on the sheets.
Bella undressed first. She let go of his hand and stood next to the bed. A quick flick of shoulder straps and she was in her prim undergarments.
Edward breathed out deeply as Bella reached around behind her and unclasped her bra, freeing her berry tipped breasts. She then took hold of her panties from each side and slid them down her legs in a single motion keeping her legs straight. When she stood up she shuffled her feet and they were exiled under the bed.
Edward looked at her naked belly and then down to the small nest of soft curls below it. He gazed at her pretty face and then down at her teardrop chest. She was beautiful and she was waiting for him to do something.
He started unbuttoning his shirt and Bella hopped in the bed to have a seat for the show. She did not pull the covers up to hide her body and he was glad she trusted him so freely.
His shirt was giving him problems, or was it his fingers, either way he finally ripped it from his body and the muscles exploded on his chest and in his arms when he did so.
He was not quite as sure footed as she was but managed to kick his shoes off without falling over and began unbuckling his belt.
Bella was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
When Edward removed his pants she could clearly see the curved shaft of his hardening gratitude press against the athletic briefs he was wearing. He removed them in the same fashion as Bella straightened for inspection.
Bella was intimidated.
Growing from his own small patch of curls was a smooth but large offering. His body was a work of art even in the shadows and he was beginning to cast a shadow of his own.
He went to her and they met on their knees in the middle of the bed. Lips found each other and hands explored new landscapes. They looked like a moving sculpture of lovers in the lunar light.
Edward reclined her on the bed and buried his face in the side of her neck where he kissed her and released the first of many sets of goosebumps that night.
He then kissed a trail down to her breasts where he suckled and licked and groaned with the pleasure of it. The sound of his rapture made Bella feel like a million bucks. Edward's hands were already at her hips and his touch was growing from light to hard. He moved his mouth to her belly and she tensed.
She was not expecting this and didn't know what to do.
"Relax Lover," came his voice. She obeyed and closed her eyes as he opened her legs like he did her wings.
A few moments later she arched her back as Edward flicked and swirled and sucked and kissed her into oblivion.
She felt something building inside her but she was not ready to explore it yet. She was already over stimulated and asked to take a break, as she tried to get first her hand and then her mouth around his girth.
She just pretended that it was a dreamcicle and went to town. She heard him gasp and whimper and took that as a good sign so she turned up the suction and threw in a few licks for good measure.
She couldn't believe that she was doing something so intimate with someone and yet she felt like this was what had been waiting for her all along.
Edward languished in her care for a few minutes then pulled her up firmly and turned her over on her back where he hovered over her and spoke with a shaky voice.
"I'm sure that it will hurt at first but...I don't think it will last very long." He smiled apologetically but she thought that given the circumstances, it made for a good arrangement.
He was slick and hard and went in slowly as Bella took in a great gulp of air. The feeling of him filling her was hypnotic. It was as if her body was a puzzle and she had been missing a piece, a big piece, and he had just put it back into place.
It did hurt, a lot, but it was one of those good pains, like exercising. Still, he was gentle and moved his impressive length in and out of her in slow steady strokes.
He kissed her neck again but kept his weight on his elbows. Bella looked up at the moon and could have kissed him once for every crater she saw. She was going to Make Angels by day and Make Love by night. It was a life that she was ready for, waiting for.
Edward was an expressive lover and as he pushed himself deep inside her she felt a powerful rush of something that seemed like it could get very intense very quickly.
She was short of breath as that feeling began to take her over. She wasn't sure she was ready for it but she could do little to stop what felt like a powerful locomotive of bliss barreling towards her.
Edward was alive with pleasure and was getting as close as she was. He called her name and hearing it made her insides convulse in a delicious way that made him move in and out with greater ease.
She was still panting a moment later when Edward's body stilled except for the part inside of her which began pulsing. Before he could move she held him tightly to her chest.
"I'm not letting go," she said.
"Good thing," Edward answered, breathless. "Because I just lost my grip."
The next morning, and for the next nine years actually, Bella woke up next to Edward. Sometimes it was in her bungalow, sometimes it was in his rustic old mansion and even still sometimes it was some new location one of them had dreamt up for a special occasion.
The Angel Makers team had grown to well over two hundred, mostly good criers who couldn't make it through a wedding if they were getting a tattoo at the same time. They could spot over a hundred thousand Angels a day.
They had to get a bigger table.
Bella had grown her own wings and could no longer visit Earth unless she decided to reincarnate. She had no hind that they were going to appear until she woke up one morning and found herself cradled in them. Jasper showed up and told her that he was there to help her break them in.
"You are ready to touch God now," he told her as they walked towards the stained glass chamber she had woken up in a lifetime ago.
When they were inside, the air turned sweet and the Glass egg cracked open. Bright yellow sunlight filled the chamber.
"Up and out kiddo," he said and jumped into the air. She heard his wings whoosh over her head and felt the air they pushed back into her face.
By that time, Bella had learned to trust in things and jumped into the air hoping that she would pump her wings despite not being able to roll her tongue or wiggle her ears.
Her wings worked instinctually and once she was in the air she could easily take control and catch up to Jasper.
"It's easy," she said.
"I know, it's one of the best parts of Heaven."
"Where are we going?'
"Even Angels have to wait until they're ready to actually be in God's presence."
Bella kept quiet but her mind went back to the first day she arrived and was lovingly held and comforted by a man she never saw. She flew with Jasper up until white clouds gave way to lavender clouds which gave way to white clouds again.
God was sitting on a floating golf course with beautiful ponds and streams and desert sized sand traps. He was in a meadow with several other Angels but he excused himself and stood up when Jasper and Bella landed, he more gracefully than she.
He looked like any other man but his presence was unmistakable. He walked right up to Bella and she knew it was him before he even hugged her again.
He still smelled like snow.
"Hello again my child."
"Thank you." She squeezed him hard and felt his fast beating heart once more.
He released her. "Thank you, Bella. I had never anticipated Earth getting so crowded you see. Silly on my part I know, but now my Angels can get home faster thanks to you."
"Really, it was Edward," she said. "He was so sweet in the restaurant that day and made me even start crying in the first place...but...you know that already don't you?"
"He was very lonely Bella, and I can admit to you now that he was the real reason I let you come so early. I couldn't stand to see him so sad and he was going to reincarnate and then it would've taken you two forever to find each other."
Bella gaped at him.
"I'm a romantic," he said. "Sue me."
"What do I do now that my wings came in?"
"It's Heaven!" He declared. "You have fun! And come visit me from time to time."
"Okay." Bella smiled, she didn't know what else to do.
"I hear that you and Edward are quite the bowlers." He said. Jasper covered his mouth but Bella saw the smile.
"We've knocked down a few pins." She said modestly.
"Do you golf?"
"Um...no but we could try." She never understood the game but Edward had a putter and was pretty good with a Top Flight putter and a coffee cup.
Jasper nudged her. "Don't take any bets this guy lays on you."
She laughed but mostly because the reproachful look He gave Jasper revealed that he wasn't kidding.
"Jasper, why don't you bring Bella and Edward along on our next round?"
"Will do Boss."
They jumped off the edge of the Sixteenth fairway, a nasty place to slice your ball, and again Bella's wings instinctually operated until she got the feel for what to do.
They glided down through the crack in the egg and it sealed itself behind them.
"I used to be a wrangler you know," Jasper told her. "I would sail over the heads of reaching ghosts and look carefully for wings sticking out of some of them."
He continued as he and Bella walked to the door made up of amber glass.
"The children were brought up and given an automatic reincarnation and it was my specific duty to calm them and ready them for a trip back into the womb. They were always scared and they always asked me why this happened...I couldn't take it."
"Was it because you never knew the answer?" Bella wondered.
Jasper shook his head. "Oh, I know the why of things. It was that they felt so isolated and they so desperately just wanted more time with me, or truthfully anybody that wasn't a muttering ghost." He lowered his head. "I never had the time to spare."
They arrived at the bungalow she shared with Edward, but they took a glass elevator to get there. Jasper looked out the rounded window and continued speaking.
"I have since heard from the current wranglers that they now have whole skiffs just for the children and they can take as much time as they need. You did that. You and Edward made differences that you don't even know about. I just wanted to thank you for that."
"You're welcome," Bella whispered. She had no idea the reach her discovery had, even nearly a decade later.
Edward walked into the room, having heard their arrival. "How was it?"
"He's funny." Bella said, "and he likes to golf...and he smells like snow."
Bella had told Edward about the interaction she had when she first arrived and how she had even complained that she died a virgin. They often discussed whether or not that was God and both believed that the presence she felt was unmistakable and continued to be their biggest reason to assume that it was Him.
Jasper saw the intrigue on Edward's face and misread it.
"Don't worry buddy, you're going any day now. I have an afternoon tee off for the four of us in less than a week so I know it's coming soon." He put his arm around his friend. "Bella's a girl, I guess she just matured faster."
Jasper smiled and then pulled a tiny silver ship's wheel out of his vest pocket and showed it to them. There was a silver key attached to it by a small linked chain.
"They've asked me to come back to work. Well, He asked me to come back, and thanks to you two, I can."
"You're going to work with kids again?" Bella asked.
"Captain of my own boat and I get to pick my crew. Would you guys like to help kids cross over with me? We could just try it once to make sure you like it, but I have a feeling that you will simply adore the work."
They looked at each other. "Sounds like I'm going to be out of a job in a week," Edward said.
"Do we get to drive the boat?"
"Sometimes." Jasper sighed.
The three of them discussed a few other friends that might want to sail around with them pulling kids out of the soup. Esme and Carlisle had been retired for a while and jumped at the chance later that night when they were asked.
Emmett agreed but kept making waterskiing jokes the whole first day they went out. He was especially good with the kids and also acted as the anchor man.
Edward and Bella considered reincarnation once but couldn't bear the risk of losing one another so they stayed where they were, Retired Angel Makers who wound up preparing young souls for a journey back into the unknown.
They spoke to the children before they left the boat and their words were repeated in thousands of dreams.
The rate of children being discovered with fully developed wings jumped dramatically after that.
And of course, they were oh so easily spotted.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. I appreciate the nice comments I received on this piece after the contest results were revealed.
In case you're wondering where I've been lately, here is an update.
I'm co-writing a story with my wife, RandomCran, entitled EXPOSURE. It is posted on her FF account (in fact we're updating today). Check it out!
I also am a regular contributor at the Bookish Temptations site and have a new post up today as well. www(dot)bookishtemptations(at)wordpress(dot)com. Feel free to visit and comment.