AN: In case anyone was wondering, I written the assignment's storyline like four years ago, I just revamped it to add in Ashlee. That was before I saw the "Netherlands" episode, so the name is completely coincidental, but I did make it as clear as possible with the pronunciation. The italics represents flashbacks.
Warning: I forgot to put this in the prologue, but this story touches on a serious subject. I want to tell you what it is, but I want to keep the story mysterious. I do, however, apologize to anyone who may feel offended by this story.
"So, that's basically what happened." Ashlee said after her tears subsided when she was finished with her story. She was still snuggled in her supervisor's embrace, her head resting on Tess's shoulder. "I'm surprised you didn't know that going in."
"Actually, I was just told to take you to the house and let things play out." She informed her caseworker. "I didn't know I was going to end up having to chase you through a forest."
"Why do they do it, Tess?" Ashlee inquired after a few minutes of silence.
"Do what, precious?"
"I know God gave humans free will, but why do they use it to do some of the most horrible things?" The young angel could feel tears welling in her eyes again. "It was horrible what he did to her," she said, referring to what happened in her assignment's house five years ago.
Tess hugged Ashlee tightly, sensing her charge's mood. "I know it was. Humans sometimes do the most horrible things for reasons we would never understand and the only thing an angel can do is love them." She gave Ashlee's shoulder a reassuring pat. "But what happened five years ago was not your fault."
"Yes it was!" Ashlee exclaimed with edge and frustration in her voice. She glanced up and, as expected, saw her supervisor glare at her. Tess didn't have to say anything because the younger angel knew what that meant. She let her eyes travel back to the ground as she repeated "it was" in a much softer tone.
Tess shook her head. "You did all you could do…"
"But I've could've done more," Ashlee spoke up, not realizing that she had just interrupted Tess. "It shouldn't have happened." The tears that were welling in her eyes were now freely falling. "I'm an angel, I should've been able to stop it. I should've been able to stop him."
"Yes, you are an angel. But you are not God. God created you just like He created humans. And He gave them free will just like He gave to you. Unfortunately, humans sometimes use it to do some unimaginable things." She paused to see if Ashlee would respond, but the younger angel didn't. "That boy had a choice to make that night five years ago and he chose to do what he did. The damage has been done and, now, God is asking you to repair what is broken."
Ashlee released a sob as she buried her face in Tess's shoulder. "But why is it that I only get to help after it was done? Why couldn't I have stopped it?"
Tess shook her head. It was apparent that she wasn't going to get Ashlee to understand that what happened wasn't her fault before the day was over with.
It was then that a thought crossed the elder angel's mind.
"Ashlee?" She asked, trying to get the younger angel's attention. "Why did you think I would stop loving you if you had told me what happened?"
"Because…" she managed to choke out in between sobs. "Because I thought that you were going to be angry at me for not stopping it."
Tess gave Ashlee's small frame a slight squeeze in a reassuring manner. "No. I'm not mad at you. You didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't your fault, precious. It wasn't your fault."
Ashlee nodded, Tess's words sinking in. Something in her spirit told her that Tess was right, that what happened five years ago wasn't her fault. But she still felt a sense of guilt inside of her. Why wasn't she able to prevent it from happening?
The elder angel began to comb her fingers through Ashlee's hair as the younger angel continued to cry into her shoulder. She began singing "The Lord Moves in Mysterious Ways," knowing it would help her precious angel calm down. She really needed to get Ashlee calm in order for the younger angel to start her assignment. Ashlee was going to start this assignment whether her charge wanted to or not.
Ashlee took a deep breath as she continued to stare at the house where her assignment resides. It took practically two hours, but Tess was able to convince Ashlee to go to the house.
The young angel was still a little timid. Although Tess had reassured her that what happened five years ago wasn't her fault and that she did all she could do, Ashlee still wasn't sure she was the right angel for this job. She only prayed that the Father would give her the strength to do this.
As if an answer to her prayer, she felt her supervisor squeeze her shoulders in an assuring manner, silently telling her that she could do this. She turned around and gave the elder angel hug. She closed her eyes and buried her face into Tess's shoulder, as if to plea with her supervisor one last time to not make her to do this.
Tess shook her head. As much as the elder angel wanted to protect her charge from having to face this dark past, she knew she couldn't. Ashlee had to confront this in order to help her assignment and herself as well.
She rubbed Ashlee's back as her precious angel began sobbing into her shoulder.
"Ashlee, I know this is a frightening experience for you, but you have to do this. It's the only way your assignment and you, yourself, will be able to heal from this."
Ashlee shook her head. "I can't, Tess. I can't. It hurts too much."
"Shh! Shh! I know, baby. I know it hurts, but you have to do this." She patted Ashlee's shoulder in a reassuring manner. "I'll be back to check on you later. Ok?"
Ashlee nodded. She took a deep breath as she willed herself to let go. It pained her to have to leave the warmth and comfort of her supervisor's embrace.
She swallowed the lump in her throat as she faced the house. She walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. She glanced back, hoping for another reassuring look from her supervisor only to find that Tess had disappeared.
The door swung open a moment later to reveal a woman dressed in a black leotard with a matching tutu and pink tights and ballet slippers, which were also pink. Her silky black hair was pinned up in a messy bun with a Chinese bang on her alabaster colored face, almost covering her chocolate colored eyes.
As Ashlee gave her a quick glance over, she noticed that the woman hadn't change much since she last saw her five years ago. The only difference was her age, which Ashlee guessed to be about twenty-two.
"Excuse me? I asked if I could help you." The young woman repeated the question in a soft tone, bringing Ashlee out of her thoughts, she hadn't realized that she was ignoring the woman in front of her.
The young angel cleared her throat, regrouping herself. "Hello! I'm here to apply for the nanny position. My name is Ashlee."
The young woman nodded. "Please come in." She stepped aside to let Ashlee in. "My name is Madeline. Pronounced like the French orphan in the stories and the movies."
Ashlee nodded. "French orphan. Got it." She said, causing both her and Madeline to giggle.
"Arizona, that's my daughter's name, isn't a difficult child to handle. If she ever gets out of line, which is rarely, just sit her in a corner or threaten to give her broccoli and she'll be fine after that."
Ashlee tried to hide the confused look on her face. Putting a child in the corner is one thing, but how does feeding them broccoli counts as a punishment?
Madeline smiled when she sensed the angel's mood. "Arizona hates broccoli. I've been trying for years to get her to eat them, but I guess you can't force vegetables down a child's throat."
"I guess you can't."
So far, things were going good for the young angel. She just prayed that she didn't say or do anything that would mess things up.
"You know," Madeline spoke up. "From what I see, you and Zona will get along just fine. Do you sing, by the way?"
Ashlee's eyes widen at her assignment's question. "Sing?" She asked in a nervous manner. "Was that in the job description? Because if it was, I didn't see it."
Madeline giggled and shook her head. "No, it wasn't in the job description. It's just that singing helps Arizona relax when she's upset or can't sleep. Things like that. I do it for the most part, but it's kind of nice to know that someone is comforting her when I'm not able to reach her, you know."
Ashlee nodded as she held back a sigh of relief. The last thing she needed was to not be able to do her job because she didn't have the gift of music.
"Actually," Madeline continued. "Her favorite song is 'Stay Awake'. It's a lullaby from the Mary Poppins movie. I'm sure you've heard of Mary Poppins, right?"
"Yes, I have. It's a classic."
"Come on," Madeline instructed. "Let me show you where you'll be sleeping."
Ashlee followed her assignment. They passed the living room to a flight of stairs. An empty space on the mantel of the fireplace caught the angel's attention. She glanced back to see a round, thick, burgundy candle that wasn't there before…
An unexpected shake in the house caused the lit candle to shift about two centimeters forward, causing it to sway on the edge of the mantel. It was almost as if it knew that the house could burn down if the candle were to hit the floor. It continued to sway, but another unexpected shake caused the candle to fall off of the mantel.
Fortunately, Ashlee was able to catch the candle before it had a chance to hit the ground. She released a sigh of relief as she placed it back on the mantle and flashed a smile of pride.
The angel shook her head as she was brought back to reality. She glanced at her assignment then back at the mantle to see that the candle was gone.
"Are you okay?" Madeline asked in a concerned tone.
Ashlee nodded as shifted her gaze back to Madeline. "I'm fine. I'm just a little tired that's all."
Madeline nodded, not fully buying the angel's statement. She led Ashlee to the room where she would be sleeping.
"So, this is my room." Madeline said when they passed the first door upstairs. "Arizona's room is next to mines. This is where you will be sleeping." They reached the door at the end of the hall.
Ashlee shot Madeline a confused look. "Isn't this your room?" She asked, referring to the room Madeline was showing her. She then realized what she had just asked and quickly said, "I'm guessing."
Madeline flashed her a small smile. "It used to be my room. Then, when my mother got re-married about two years ago, I decided to move into her old room. Now, my old room is the guest room." Ashlee nodded, taking in the information. "Well, why don't you just go in and make yourself at home. I'll be leaving in a few minutes. I'm an after school and Saturday dance instructor, by the way. I can't believe I forgot to tell you that." She shrugged and walked away.
Ashlee took a deep breath as she turned the knob and opened the door, praying that God would give her strength to be able to do this. The moment she entered the room, she felt a sense of darkness and pain in the quiet and still room.
A sudden and tearful plea of "Get off of me!" pierced through the silence, followed by Ashlee's demanding voice saying, "Stop it!" Then, a male teen's voice telling the angel to back off.
Ashlee shook her head. She tried as best as she could to endure the sounds of the voices, but she couldn't. She covered her ears to drown them out. "Father, please." The young angel prayed. "Please make them stop."
"Who are you?"
Ashlee heard an innocent voice behind her just as the other voices stopped. She mumbled a prayer of thanks before she turned to see a little girl about four years old standing in the door frame, cuddling a white, stuffed bunny. She looked almost like Madeline, except for her green eyes.
Ashlee gave the little girl a friendly smile as she approached her and bent down to her level. "Hello! My name is Ashlee and you must be Arizona. I'm your new nanny."
Arizona glanced at her suspiciously. "For how long? Because they only stay for like three days."
Ashlee furrowed her brows in confusion. "What do you mean they only stay for three days?"
"Well, every time my mommy hires a new nanny, they pick me up from school and talk to my teacher. Then, they come back here and argue with my mommy and my mommy fires them."
"Why do they argue with your mommy?"
The little girl shrugged. "I don't know. But I know it has something to do with what my teacher tells them. I don't know what that is, but it must be pretty bad if they pick fights with my mommy about it."
Ashlee nodded, taking in the information.
Just then, Madeline appeared next to Arizona. She picked her daughter up and gave her a tight hug, causing the little girl to giggle. She set Arizona down and informed Ashlee that she'll be back sometime after five o'clock. The young woman left, leaving the little girl and the angel alone.