Though Samantha and Justin could have projected themselves into the clearing from the Barbers place, Lloyd and Connie insisted that they be allowed to drive the two newly-weds there. Surprised upon first hearing of Justin and Samantha’s choice of where they would spend the remainder of their wedding day and their wedding night, the Barbers agreed that they could not have picked a more appropriate place. Having been in the forest clearing once themselves, they understood the reasoning behind the choice.
As they dropped Samantha and Justin off at the beginning of the trail, Connie looked at them and smiled. “You two never even discussed this, did you,” she stated.
Justin and Samantha looked at each other, then at Connie. “Didn’t need to,” they said in almost perfect unison. After the Barbers car disappeared back down the forest road, Justin picked up the two sleeping bags the Barbers had loaned them, then he and Samantha projected themselves into the clearing. Setting the bags down by the conversation log, he and Samantha embraced.
“Hello, Mrs. Billings,” Justin said to her.
“Hello yourself, Mr. Billings,” she replied with a smile. Looking up at the sky, she said, “We have several hours until sundown. What do you want to do until then? We could go to Smiths or something.”
“How about we sit on the conversation log and talk?” he suggested. “I have a surprise for you. Actually, several surprises.”
“O-o-o,” said Samantha, giggling a little. “I like surprises.”
Once they were seated in their usual positions, Justin’s demeanor grew more serious. “It was nice of the Barbers to offer to let us stay in their home until we can find an apartment of our own.”
“I agree,” said Samantha. “And I hope we can find someplace fairly close so you won’t have to travel very far to work. What?”
Though he had tried to prevent it, a wide smile broke through the serious demeanor he was attempting to maintain. “Actually,” he said, “we’re going to have some place very close-that is, if you are in favor of what I’m about to tell you. The Barbers have offered us a free acre of land, if we want it.”
“That’s very generous of them,” said Samantha.
“And,” he added, “Chris and his dad have offered to build us a house on the land. If we can come up with the money for the materials, they’ll build it for free. Chris told me that he and his dad wanted to do the entire thing for free, but they just can’t. Still, free labor is a huge savings. What do you think?”
“Our own home,” said Samantha slowly. “I think, that you really didn’t have to ask me that question. I’m all for it. You would be close to your work, and I could visit with Connie anytime I wanted to. Where do we sign?”
“We’re here now.”
“Okay, buddy,” replied Leland. “I’m on my way. I’ll tell Aaron.”
“Thanks,” Justin told him. “I owe you one. This is going to mean a lot to Samantha-well, and to me also.”
“Who were you impathing?” asked Samantha.
“Another of my surprises,” Justin told her. “We’re going to have some visitors in a minute.”
“The Guardian Team is coming?”
“Aaron and the sisters. Leland also. I figured that we ought to at least make a party of it,” Justin told her. “Besides, I couldn’t take the chance of them dropping in unexpectedly later on and catching us in the middle of something.”
Assuming an innocent pose, Samantha looked at him and asked, “And just what something could they possibly catch us in the middle of, Mr. Billings?”
Arnold Curtis sat in his car in front of his parents’ home, making plans. When he had parked at the church building, he had seen no one else around. How Billings had known he was there, he had no idea. And instead of coming out himself, Billings had sent his two lap dogs, Bart and Chris. Well, if Justin thought that was going to stop him from getting to Samantha, he would soon find out differently.
Arnold had been doing a lot of thinking lately, and while doing so, had pieced together a puzzle of sorts. What he had discovered, once he had all the pieces in place, was that Samantha didn’t know what she could have had because Billings was always there to make certain that she wasn’t able to find out.
The incident in the hallway at school for example. Billings had shown up just as Samantha had expressed an interest in learning what he, Arnold, could offer that Billings couldn’t. Then there was the deal at the hospital. Samantha had expressed genuine pleasure at receiving flowers from him. Unfortunately, Billings had stuck his nose in, once again, where it didn’t belong. Instead of being honest and telling Samantha that the flowers he, Arnold, had brought her were nicer than the ones Billings had given her, Billings had made a mockery of the whole thing, leading her to believe that while his flowers were okay, they were certainly nothing special. Arnold had no doubt that Billings had thrown the flowers away the first chance he got so that Samantha would never see them.
The tragic part, in Arnold’s opinion, was that Samantha could not see what Billings was doing to her. If he was that controlling before their marriage, Arnold could only imagine what lay ahead for Samantha now that they were married. Well, even if she hadn’t been able to see it, he had, and it was still not too late for him to save her.
As proof of the correctness of his conclusion, he had been on his way back home after spending some time at Smiths, when he saw the Barber’s car turn up the pasture road and disappear into the forest. He knew that Billings and Samantha-mostly Billings, he suspected-liked to spend time in the forest away from everyone else. Not surprising then, thought Arnold, that Billings would get Samantha away from her friends and family as soon after the wedding as possible. Was it just happenstance that he had seen where they were going?
He didn’t think so.
At one point, Arnold had disliked Samantha as much as he disliked Justin-but he had been wrong. He knew that now. The puzzle he had pieced together had shown him that only Billings was to blame. Feeling vindicated, he had resolved to renew and redouble his efforts to get through to Samantha. She was married now, he knew, but that did not make his task impossible. On his way home earlier, Fate had placed him exactly where he needed to be so that he would have the information he had lacked to accomplish his goal. Now, knowing where Justin and Samantha were headed, he wouldn’t have any problem finding them. Preferably, he would be able to speak with her alone. If Justin wouldn’t allow it, he had a foolproof plan to cover that. He would lay the completed puzzle out before the two of them, letting Justin’s refusal be the coup-de-grace that would force Samantha to finally see what Justin was doing to her.
Going over the completed puzzle again, he could find no flaw in it. Invigorated, then, he started the car and began his journey to the pasture road.
The first two angels to emerge from the conveyance tube in the clearing were Samantha’s sisters and guardian team members, Isabelle and Charity. Shouting with delight, Samantha jumped up from the conversation log and ran to meet them. After embracing them both at the same time, the three of them stood in the center of the clearing, Isabelle and Charity hanging on every word of Samantha’s narration of the events of the wedding and the reception. Her story of the ring that Connie had loaned her elicited a declaration from them that the story would soon be all over heaven.
When Leland showed up a few minutes later, Beatrice-who had insisted on accompanying him-immediately joined the three other sisters in the middle of the clearing. Her arrival gave Samantha an excuse to tell about the wedding and reception all over again.
While Leland and Aaron may not have been as animated in their speech as the sister angels were, they were not far behind in matching the sister’s emotions.
“Congratulations buddy,” said Leland as he embraced Justin in a brief bear hug.
“Thank you,” replied Justin, “and I mean that sincerely. If it weren’t for you two, this day may never have happened.” Noticing their questioning stares, he explained. “The gifts you gave Samantha and I, helped us stay alive on several occasions. They even helped me, in an indirect way, to save Samantha’s life.” Pausing, he decided to voice something that had puzzled and perhaps irritated him ever since Samantha’s recovery. “Speaking of which,” he said, “I have a small bone to pick with you two. While I was in agony throughout that entire ordeal, both of you seemed to find the whole episode quite amusing-at least, that’s the way you were acting.”
“Sorry about that, pal,” said Aaron, who really wasn’t, “but we thought you understood. From our point of view as angels, what you saw as the worst thing that could happen, was to us, nothing of the sort. Samantha would have been passing from earth life to a life far superior than anything she had ever experienced before. Well, you know-you had a brief taste of it one time not long ago. In addition, I would have had Samantha as a permanent member of my Guardian Team.”
“I guess when you put it that way,” Justin told him, “I can kind of understand. Anyway, thank you for showing up. You have given Samantha and me something to remember for the rest of our lives. How long can you stay?”
“How long can I stay,” mused Leland, stroking his chin. “If I try to get everyone out of here before the sisters are finished talking with Samantha, I’ll be all kinds of trouble. You’ve heard the phrase ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?’ Well, in heaven it’s ‘heaven hath no fury like a Sister who isn’t given the time to catch up on all the latest gossip’. So, I think we’ll stay until the Sisters are ready to go.”
Arnold Curtis turned off the highway and onto the pasture road. Shaking his head, he thought how close he had come to giving up his pursuit of Samantha. There but for the grace of God, he thought to himself. Thirty seconds either way, and he would have missed seeing the car driving up the pasture road. That’s when he knew what he had to do-what divine providence had decreed for him. Again, he played in his mind the scenario which was about to take place. Very clearly, he would verbally lay the puzzle pieces down, one by one. He imagined Samantha’s dawning comprehension as each piece fell into place. When the last piece joined the others, she would be thoroughly convinced. She had to be. The logic was so clear and undeniable, Arnold knew, that only one outcome was possible. The big question was whether Samantha would leave with him right away, or first make Justin answer for what he had done to her.
Either way, she would know that in Arnold, she now had a new and better shoulder to cry on.
“Sisters Isabelle, Charity, and Beatrice, are you ready to go yet?” Leland had been keeping an eye on the four who had not moved from the center of the clearing since the three Sister Angels had arrived. When their conversation became a little less animated, he decided he could began hinting to them. As a reply, all four women turned their heads and gave him a brief but hard stare. Don’t even suggest it, the stares said.
Throwing up is hands-as if surrendering, or warding off trouble-Leland turned and walked back towards Aaron and Justin. Both were laughing grandly at the obviousness of what had happened.
“I guess they’re ready to leave right now, huh?” Aaron managed between fits of laughter.
“I see what you mean by ‘heaven hath no fury’,” commented Justin, slightly out of breath himself. Then suddenly, all amusement left him. “I do not believe this,” he said slowly and seriously as his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
“What’s wrong buddy?” asked Leland.
“Arnold Curtis,” replied Justin. “Doesn’t that guy know when to give up?”
“He’s here?” asked Aaron. Both he and Leland knew the story of Arnold’s attempts to win Samantha. They also knew about Arnold’s attempt to crash the wedding reception.
“On the trail as we speak,” Justin told them. “I think I’m going to have a little talk with him.”
“He won’t be able to find this place,” Leland reminded him. “Let him wander around for awhile. He’ll eventually get bored and leave.”
“I don’t think so,” said Justin. “Check out his aura. This guy means business. He’ll stay here all night if he has to.”
“So?” asked Aaron. “He still won’t find you.”
“Aaron,” said Justin, firmly. “It’s my wedding day. I’ll know he’s out there. I don’t want to be thinking of him every few minutes and putting my Vision on him to see what he’s up to.”
Seeing Justin’s logic, Aaron and Leland looked at each other. “You stay here,” Leland ordered. “Aaron and I run a bouncer service on the side. We’ll take care of him for you.”
Ready to protest, Justin realized that whatever happened with Arnold, especially if it was bad, would be on them and not him.
“Thanks, guys,” he said. “I’ll consider this a wedding present from you.”
When he reached the end of the pasture road, Arnold continued up the obviously vehicle-created forest road to the also obvious stopping point. Getting out of his car, he spotted the pathway leading into the forest. Looking quickly around, he decided that the pathway would probably lead him to where Samantha and Justin were. He began his trek along the path, walking as quickly but as silently as he could.
“Are were going in luminous?” asked Aaron.
“Let’s talk to him with our identity disguised,” said Leland. “If he doesn’t accept that, then we can light up a little. That should put some sense into him.”
Throwing their Vision onto the trail, they left the clearing and reappeared several yards away from a bend Arnold would be coming around in a few minutes.
“Guys…do me a favor and get lost,” said Samantha, appearing in front of them on the trail. “I’ll handle this myself.”
If Leland or Aaron had any thoughts of protesting her demand for a solo act, what they saw in her eyes kept them silent. Looking at each other, they simultaneously disappeared from view-human view, anyway.
“He won’t be able to see us,” impathed Aaron, “but we’re going to stay here, just in case.”
“Okay,” Samantha replied, “and sorry to be so abrupt, but his idiot is stepping way over the line. Time to put an end to it.”
Arnold was so busy rehearsing the lines he would deliver to Samantha, that he literally almost ran into her on the trail. One look at her face told him that she was very upset. Must have had a small falling-out with Justin already, he decided-which, of course, boded well for him. Pasting a concerned look on his face, he said, “Hi, Samantha. What’s wrong?”
For the next fifteen seconds, her return answer consisted of a cold, ice-green stare. Misinterpreting the situation badly, Arnold sighed. “I was afraid this would happen,” he told her, his expression deliberately solemn. “I’ve known for some time now that Justin was-”
Pausing in mid-sentence, Arnold waited for her admission-and perhaps, her apology also.
“Go home, Arnold,” Samantha said to him. “Do you understand me? Go. Home. You are not wanted here. I don’t know how I can put it any more clearly.”
Billings had to be around somewhere, Arnold decided, otherwise Samantha would not be so upset. He recognized her ‘go home’ command for what it really was: a plea for help to get her away from that control freak Justin. He realized now that the situation was worse than he had thought. He wondered what kind of threats Justin had used against her. Whatever it was, he knew now, more than ever, that he had to save her from further abuse at Justin’s hands.
Divine providence had led him to Samantha for a reason, and he was not going to fail. Stepping closer to her and speaking quietly enough that Billings would not be able to hear him, he said, “I understand, Samantha. I’m going to get you away from him so that he will never be able to hurt you again. You have my word.”
“Wow,” said Aaron to Leland. “How dense can one person get? Which syllable of ‘go home’ did he not understand?”
“Definitely an IQ that’s close to having a minus sign in front of it,” Leland stated.
“Are you still here, guys?” Samantha’s frustration was obvious in her impath.
“Yes,” replied Aaron, “and catching every moment of dim-wittedness from Arnold.”
“Obviously, I’m not getting through to him, so how about lighting up? Perhaps you’ll have better luck than I’m having. Once you’ve got his attention, I’m going to project back into the clearing.”
“Don’t worry,” Leland assured her. “We’ll take care of him for you.”
“Mind if I take the lead on this one, Leland?” requested Aaron.
“Have at it, Senior Angel.”
Stepping in front of Samantha before they began illuminating, Leland and Aaron watched somewhat humorously as Arnold’s eyes widened in surprise at the two ever-brightening beings that had magically appeared in front of him on the trail. Once they were bright enough that Arnold almost had to shield his eyes, they maintained that level as Aaron addressed him.
“Arnold Curtis,” Aaron said, ominously.
“Who…who are you?” Arnold asked them, his voice trembling.
“We are…Divine Intervention.”
“We are Divine Intervention?” repeated Leland to Aaron.
“Just watch,” replied Aaron. “I know how to speak Dim-Wit.”
“I got your message,” said Arnold, animatedly. “So I came to help Samantha. I…”
“Thou wilt pursue Samantha no longer.”
“Thou wilt? This is getting cheesier by the moment.”
“But she needs my help and…”
“Silence!” Aaron increased his brightness momentarily, then brought it back down. “Thou shalt not anger us,” he said.
Arnold stepped back a pace in fear. “I’ll do what you want,” he replied, anxious to please them.
“There art many women who would welcome your attentions,” continued Aaron. “Therefore, waste no further energy on those who won’t, but go forth, and pursue those who will. Now, depart from us and remember thy mission.”
As they watched Arnold practically tripping all over himself to prove that he was leaving to do what they had ordered him to, Leland groaned. “Go forth and pursue?” he said. “You’re killing me over here, Senior Angel.”
“It worked, didn’t it?” Aaron asked him.
“Go forth and pursue,” muttered Leland, shaking his head in unbelief. “Only you could pull off something that cheesy, Senior,” he said. “Only you.”
As soon as he was on the pasture road that led to the highway, Arnold brought his car to a stop. The puzzle, which he thought had fit together so perfectly, had just been totally destroyed by the two angels. Before traveling any further, he knew he had to reassemble puzzle-correctly this time. Divine providence had led him to the mountain trail, but not for the reason he had assumed earlier. What, then? The angels had given him two orders: to ‘waste no further energy’ on Samantha, and to ‘go forth and pursue’ girls that would respond to him. It didn’t take him long to realize that the angels had told him to waste no further energy on Samantha because she was not worth wasting energy on. As he thought for a moment more, other puzzle pieces began falling into place. He realized then why divine providence had led him to the two angels. He had been about to make a terrible mistake. With dawning awareness, he realized that Samantha was not good enough for him. He had been concerned that Samantha could not see how controlling Justin was. But thanks to the two angels, he knew the truth: Samantha knew what Justin was, because Samantha was one of those weirdo’s who actually liked being controlled. And who knew what other kind of weird or off the wall things she might be into. Knowing that control freak Justin like he did, it could be any number of things. Yes, divine providence had led him to the mountain path, and divine providence had saved him. Whatever Justin and Samantha’s fate might be, he knew that he could care less. Though the two angels had not said it in so many words, he realized with glee that Samantha and Justin would get everything that was coming to them. Putting his car back in gear, he resumed his journey down the pasture road. Raising his head and looking up briefly, he muttered a heartfelt thank you.
As far as he was concerned, Samantha and Justin were history-forever.
The sun was low enough in the sky that the shadows from trees bordering the west side of the clearing were beginning to slowly ease their way towards the other side. Justin and Samantha were sitting on the ground using the conversation log as a backrest.
“That was extremely nervy of Arnold,” said Samantha, “Coming here on our wedding day.”
“Extremely clueless, I’d say,” Justin replied. “But if he was trying to ruin the day for us, he did not succeed with me.”
“Nor with me,” said Samantha. “And that’s all the talking I want to do about Arnold.”
“Okay,” agreed Justin. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Right now,” she said, “I’m content to just sit here with you, savoring the thought that when we go home tomorrow, we’ll be going to the same place. No more of this ‘see you tomorrow’ or ‘see you’ whatever day of the week business.”
For the next thirty minutes or so, they sat in silence, holding hands and enjoying the feeling that they would be spending the rest of their lives together.
Finally, Justin spoke. “There’s one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he said. “I don’t know why I suddenly remembered it.”
“What ?” asked Samantha.
“The day I found out that my father had been killed,” he said, “You followed me out to the hay shed.”
“I remember that. I was wondering if you would want to be alone or not. I’m glad you let me be with you.”
“I was glad you were. One thing I’ve wondered about since then, though. You cried, even though you didn’t know my father.”
“You were my man,” Samantha said simply, leaning against him. “And when my man hurts, I hurt too. Did you ever talk to your father like I suggested?”
“Yes,” Justin told her, “and it really helped. I felt as if he was standing right there listening.” A pause, then, “What?”
Samantha had closed her eyes in concentration. At Justin’s “what”, she made small stabbing movements with her finger at the sky, letting him know that she was receiving a message. After a few moments, and she opened her eyes and looked at him, a smile creeping across her face.
“That was my Guardian Sisters,” she informed him, happily. “They’re sending us a wedding present. It’s coming by way of the conveyance tube. Isn’t that nice of them? Actually, the present is from the Guardian team and Battle Team, but it was one of the sisters who had the original idea.”
“This ought to be interesting,” said Justin. “When is it supposed to get here?”
Arising quickly to her feet, Samantha said ,”It should be arriving any moment now. Shall we walk over and see what it is?” Offering her hand to Justin, she helped him get up from the ground.
A few yards away from the conveyance tube, Justin gave Samantha’s hand a small squeeze. “I think it’s here,” he said. “I can sense it.”
Suddenly, their wedding present stepped out of the conveyance tube, looking around the clearing with interest.
Smiling, he looked at Samantha, then at Justin.
“Hello, son,” he said.
Daylight was gone from the clearing now, and though Justin had come prepared with a flashlight, he and Samantha decided that the light from the full moon was quite adequate for what they were doing at the moment: sitting and talking.
“I just figured something out,” said Justin. “when you said that one of the sisters had the original idea for our wedding present, that sister was you, wasn’t it.”
“Guilty as charged, husband of mine. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“Well, it was certainly that. I never thought I would see my father again until, well you know…”
“And now you’ve seen him sooner.”
“I hope he enjoyed our reunion as much as I did,” Justin told her. “He was certainly busting some buttons over what our guardian team told him about us. I didn’t know whether to blush or grab a shovel.”
“Well,” Samantha informed him, “you are quite brilliant and resourceful when it comes to using the powers we were given.”
“You’re pretty good at it yourself, too, you know.”
“I had a good teacher,” said Samantha, leaning next to him and kissing him on the side of his mouth. Suddenly, she stood up and walked a few yards away from the conversation log where they had been sitting.
“What are you doing?” Justin asked.
Looking up at the moon, Samantha raised her arms as if attempting to embrace it. “I’m enjoying the moonlight,” she said. “A full moon on our wedding night. How perfect is that?” Lowering her arms, she began humming and swaying gently, as if listening to music only she could hear. “Come join me, my husband,” she said.
Justin arose from the log and walked slowly towards her, appreciating how the moonlight wrapped her in its caressing glow. He had never seen anything so beautiful, he decided, than what he was looking at right then. Gently, he took her in his arms, swaying and moving with her and the melody she was humming. “You don’t make a half-bad orchestra, you know,” he said, softly.
For an answer, she laid her head on his shoulder. After a few minutes, she stopped swaying and lifted her head, looking at him. Her eyes were glistening and spilling over.
“Are you crying, Lady Fair?” Justin asked, his voice filled with love for her.
“No,” Samantha told him. “I’m not crying. I’m happying.”
Samantha removed her arms from his waist and placed them around his neck. “Remember the hospital kiss?” she asked quietly, pressing closer to him.
“Oh, yes,” replied Justin.
“And how you showed admirable restraint?”
“Willpower above and beyond,” agreed Justin.
“Tonight,” she said, laughing softly, “I expect a total lack of.”
“You do, huh?” asked Justin, playfully. Suddenly, he scooped her up in his arms like a baby, swinging her around a few times before waltzing and pirouetting his way back to the conversation log-Samantha squealing in delight all the way.
“No threshold to carry you over, Lady Fair, so this will have to do,” he informed her, almost tripping over one of the sleeping bags before setting her down.
Minutes later, the sound of sleeping bags being zipped together ceased. Then, shortly after, the low chatter of conversation stopped also, leaving the clearing in total silence.
Well, almost total silence.