“At the moment, she’s overwhelmed by grief. Her daughters are with her, though, and their love will sustain her. One or both of them will stay here until she’s settled in Liberty Orchard.”
That reassured Mercy.
The music came to a halt and the minister, Pastor Williams, stepped over to the podium in the front of the church.
“I have two announcements to make before we proceed with the Christmas program,” he said. “I’ve received word that Harry Alderwood passed away this afternoon. I ask that we keep Rosalie and her family in our prayers.”
Hushed murmurs rippled through the congregation.
“Also, as many of you know, the Jacksons lost their home in a fire last night. Fortunately, they have insurance. However, all their belongings have been destroyed. They’re staying with relatives in Wenatchee right now, but if the people of our community could open their hearts to this young family, I know you will be blessed.”
“That’s Carter’s family,” Shirley said, glancing at her friends.
“Ah, yes, Carter,” Gabriel muttered, turning a suspicious look on Shirley.
“I promise you I didn’t have anything to do with the house fire,” she said, holding up her hands.
“I know—because the three of you were out rearranging the street displays.”
“Ah…” Mercy stared down at her feet. It was just a little thing, something they’d done for enjoyment. Surely Gabriel wouldn’t mind. The residents didn’t seem to.
“You knew about the fire?” Shirley asked the Archangel.
“What happened?” Clearly, curiosity was getting the better of her. “How did it start?”
Gabriel leaned against the railing in the choir loft. “You remember that Christmas tree David Jackson found by the Dumpster?” he asked.
“There was a reason it’d been thrown away.”
“It shorted out?”
Gabriel nodded. “Carter’s mother didn’t turn off the lights when they went to bed because she was afraid that once she did, they wouldn’t come back on.” He sighed. “Foolishly they hadn’t checked the batteries in their smoke alarm.”
“The fire, while devastating, will work out well for the family. The insurance will take care of replacing their earthly possessions. David, Carter’s father, will soon be offered a new job at higher pay.”
“And his mother?”
“She’ll get that job with the school district and the family will be able to afford Rusty without a problem.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Goodness said.
“What about Rusty?” Shirley asked.
“He’ll live a good life and a long one. Rusty will be Carter’s constant companion. They’ll remain close until Rusty dies when he’s sixteen human years old.”
“Oh-h-h,” all three of them breathed.
“Carter will remember his dog for the rest of his life.” Gabriel touched Shirley’s arm. “Well done.”
Shirley beamed at his praise.
“Tell us about Beth Fischer,” Goodness said.
“Ah, yes, Beth and Peter. They’re going to step into church right now.” In the blink of an eye, it was almost midnight. The three Prayer Ambassadors and Gabriel made the transition from Leavenworth First Christian to St. Al-phonsus Catholic Church in Seattle.
The loft was crowded with members of the choir, resplendent in their long red robes. The music had just begun when Goodness saw Beth walking into the church with Peter at her side. A smile came over her as Beth and Peter entered the pew where the Fischer family was sitting.
Even from this distance, Goodness could see the surprise on Joyce Fischer’s face as Beth gestured toward Peter. Soon Joyce and Peter were hugging.
“What’ll happen with them?” Goodness asked. “Do they remarry?”
Gabriel grinned. “Yes, they’ll wed just a few weeks from now. They’ve both learned from their mistakes.”
“They’ll have children, won’t they?”
“Three,” Gabriel said. “Two boys and a girl.”
“Please tell me they won’t name their children after their characters from World of Warcraft.” Goodness grimaced and shook her head.
Gabriel laughed. “Don’t worry. The oldest boy will be John, the daughter Mary and the youngest boy’s going to be named Tim.”
“You’ll have to ask them.”
“I can?” Goodness squealed excitedly.
“Not for many years but in time, yes, you’ll have that opportunity.”
Goodness couldn’t possibly have looked more pleased.
“I believe we’re late,” Gabriel said, ushering the three toward Heaven.
“Silent Night” played softly at the church as Gabriel, along with Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, returned to Heaven, where the joyous celebration of the Savior’s birth was about to take place.
“Peace on Earth,” Gabriel murmured as they ascended.
“And goodwill to all mankind,” Shirley added. “Dogs, too.”
Goodness and Mercy laughed as the gates of Heaven opened to bring them home.
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