Owen didn’t have a halo or wings when he was in human form, but that didn’t make him any less angelic. His last assignment had been tough. A young child had been reunited with her heavenly Father. Owen never knew the outcome ahead of time; however, with guidance, he knew how to navigate whatever situation befell him.
Nathalie entered Our Lady of Victory. The cathedral ceiling was extraordinary along with the grand organ on the side of the altar. Its tall brass pipes adorned the walls. The sun illuminated the stained glass windows reflecting a myriad of colors onto the walls. Nathalie dipped her finger into the holy water and made the sign of the cross. She walked down the aisle towards the altar before genuflecting and making her way into the pew. She kneeled, closed her eyes, bowed her head, and prayed.
“Father, please help my dear Liam. I am afraid he is a lost sheep and could use a shepherd to guide him back to the flock. I am trying my very best Lord, but my efforts have been futile. He is stubborn, but I pray that you can crack his tough shell. Amen.”
Nathalie and Liam had been married in that church just five short years ago in 2015. The death of Liam’s father in 2016, however, quickly changed their dynamic. While church filled Nathalie with hope, comfort, and peace during her mourning, the opposite was true for Liam. He became disgruntled, hopeless, and faithless. At first, Nathalie pestered Liam every Sunday; she was relentless even, but one Sunday she surrendered. Whether it was out of fear of divorce or the sheer exhaustion she felt after the argument, Nathalie knew not. As she was praying, she could hear someone coming closer. She peeked out the corner of her eye to see her bestie, Michaela, sliding into the same pew beside her. Nathalie was grateful to her friend. Michaela’s presence made Liam’s absence more bearable.
After mass, the two women drove to the local pizzeria for lunch.
“I worked up quite an appetite with all the praying I did.” Nathalie said as she took a bite of her pizza.
“Oh Nat. He’ll come back to church when he’s ready.” Michaela responded. She tapped her friend lovingly on the shoulder.
“I hope so. He’s certainly taking his sweet time.”
“Yes, it has been awhile.”
“Anyway, enough about him, tell me about this new guy.”
Michaela blushed. “He’s my new teacher’s aide. His name is Owen.”
“Is he hot?”
“Nat! I just met the guy, and besides, he’s a co-worker.”
“That doesn’t mean he can’t be hot.”
Michaela thought about Owen, and wondered how she ended up with such good fortune. His straw blond hair accentuated his sparkling emerald green eyes. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was a certain aura about him. All of the fifth grade girls in her class were giddy and chatty around him; they were adorable, and she could tell they secretly had crushes on him too.
“I want to meet him.” Nathalie had continued talking.
“Well…I don’t know.”
“You could invite him to my Christmas party. Tell him it’s a good way to meet people.”
“I’ll think about it.”
The next day at school, Nathalie pondered whether she should invite Owen to the party. Being ever indecisive, Nathalie thought about it all day. When the children went to recess, Nathalie had finally decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ask. The worst that could happen would be if he said no. Owen was working on grading papers at the group table, when Nathalie approached him.
“Owen.” She said.
He stopped mid correction with his red pen and glanced up at Nathalie. “Yes?”
“You don’t have to feel pressured or anything, but…my friend…is having a Christmas party and I was wondering if you’d like to go. She thought you’d maybe like to meet new people. It’s fine if you don’t want to. My friend gets carried away sometime.”
“That sounds like fun. I’ll go.”
“Yes.” He chuckled. “You sound surprised.”
“No. No. No. Not at all. I just wasn’t sure that you’d want to hang out with me.”
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself.”
“Oh, thank you. The party is next week. It’s formal, but you don’t have to dress up.”
“Not a problem.”
Nathalie and Liam Callaghan lived in a quiet middle-class neighborhood at the end of the street. Their two story craftsman was pushed back from the road, but still visible to the passing cars. Although their house was not a cookie-cutter house, it fit in nicely with the other houses on the block. The color had been a bone of contention between Nathalie and Liam. Did they want pear green or olive? Nathalie had wanted to be a little bolder and go with pear, but after arguing ad nauseam, Liam convinced her that olive was best. Once the house was completely built and painted, Nathalie ultimately fell in love with the olive even though she’ll never admit that Liam was right. Framing each side of the house were two giant oak trees which had been transplanted in the yard ten years ago when they were short and stubby, and now their bare branches reached high into the sky. The hickory wood porch spanned the whole front of the house and had lit fir wreaths with bright sparkly red bows evenly spaced on the rails. White icicle lights gleamed as they dangled from the three triangle roofs.
Inside, Nathalie was frantically trying to clean and prepare for the guests. She had the vacuum in one hand and a dust rag in the other.
“Liam!” She yelled. “Where are you?”
“I’m downstairs.” He shouted.
“Well, get up here the guests are coming in two hours!”
Liam reluctantly climbed up the stairs. He had tried to hide and stay out of her way, but the gig was up. It’s not that he didn’t mind helping, but Nat’s standards and his standards were different. She was a control freak, type A, and he was a bit more relaxed, type B.
“What do you need, my dear?” Liam said as he leaned over and kissed the top of her forehead. Liam was average height for a man at five feet and nine inches tall, but Nathalie was short at five feet and two inches.
“Aww, don’t try and charm me,” but as she said that she fell into his embrace. They stayed like that for a minute before she put him to work taking out the garbage.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. Nathalie ran into the kitchen as she heard the timer. Her head was spinning; there was so much to do. She donned her oven mitts and opened the oven.
“Thank goodness.” She thought.
Her pigs in a blanket looked just right, and now she could check them off her list. She took a deep breath as she went through the remaining items.
Chicken wings, check.
Cheese, crackers, and pepperoni, check.
Veggie platter, check.
Chips and dip, check.
The only thing left for her to do was get the fondue fountain running. She may have gone a little overboard. Fortunately, her brother volunteered to bring an assortment of cookies, so she didn’t have to worry about those. Nathalie liked cooking, but Joel was the baker.
An hour later, the fondue fountain had been finished, but not by Nathalie. Liam had graciously volunteered to put it together, so that Nathalie could get ready. She had showered, dressed, done her hair, and her makeup. She was excited and nervous because she wanted everything to be perfect. She was second guessing making this party a more formal affair because she didn’t want to make the party a burden on her friends; however, she was looking forward to seeing everyone all dressed up.
Liam was dressed and ready in his black suit and red button down shirt. Nathalie had picked out his tie, which had snowmen on it, and although he thought it was a little cheesy, he still wore it for her. His dark brown hair was parted on his right side. It was longer on top and shorter near his ear. His muscular shoulders were the broadest part of his body and his waist the smallest. It had taken him half the time to get ready than it did Nat. He was relaxed and sitting on the couch watching TV when he heard her coming down the stairs. He peered around the corner of the room, and he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Nathalie’s long, black, and normally straight hair was in luscious curls that fell on her shoulders and bounced when she moved. She was wearing a bright red satin dress with off-the-shoulder, short sleeves. It was fitted at the top and flared at the bottom in a scalloped pattern that fell just above her knees, which elongated her legs. Nat had always been self-conscious about her body, but this dress accentuated her curves in all the right ways.
“You’re gorgeous,” Liam said.
“You too, Nat said. He chuckled.
“Ok well not gorgeous, but handsome anyway,” Nat responded.
At that moment they heard the side door open, and a voice saying “Hello, anyone home?”
“We’re in here,” they yelled.
A man in a black suit and a navy blue shirt appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Around his neck was a silver bowtie. He was slightly taller than Liam, but not as broad. His arms were covered, but it was evident that he had muscles as well. In fact, he and Liam were always competing with each other to be the strongest.
“I put the cookies on the table,” he stated.
“You’re the best,” answered Nathalie.
Liam put out his hand and shook Joel’s which resulted in a man hug with them patting each other on the back.
Liam said, “Hey man, good to see you.”
“You too,” Joel replied.
The three of them moved into the kitchen to check out the cookies. Joel had outdone himself. There were chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate chip macadamia. Liam tried to grab one, but Nat playfully slapped his hand way.
“You have to wait for the party to start. Let’s move away from the temptation.”
All seemed well at the Callaghan household, but in the midst of the party decorating, one thing had been overlooked. Santa would not be going down the chimney this Christmas as for one thing, there was a fire burning below, but far worse than the fire was the blockage preventing the colorless, odorless gas from escaping. The fire had already been burning for a couple of hours, releasing the carbon monoxide into the house.
They had resettled into the living room. Liam was standing against the wall and Nathalie and Joel were sitting on the couch. Nathalie looked at the clock. It was a little after six. Michaela and Owen would be there shortly. Nathalie had wanted to meet him before the other guests arrived. She was feeling a little queasy, but she thought it was just the excitement from party preparations.
“Nat. Are you okay?” Liam asked.
“Yes. I’m a little queasy, but I think I’m just excited.”
“You don’t look so good.” As he spoke he attempted to make his way toward her, but he was stumbling.
“Liam. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, babe.”
At that moment, Joel chimed in. “I don’t feel good either.” After he spoke, he collapsed.
“Joel!” Nathalie screamed before passing out herself.
Liam had made his way to the couch, but hadn’t reached his wife or brother-in-law before losing consciousness himself.
Owen had insisted upon picking Michaela up. She was hesitant at first, but if he wanted to be a gentleman she wouldn’t complain. When he had arrived at her door she was speechless. He looked dashing in his black suit and dark green dress shirt. Golden angels dotted his white tie. When he smiled, it took her breath away. He was equally as stunned, and he had to remind himself his purpose in being there.
“Wow.” Owen said.
“You like?” She said, showing off her dress.
Michaela had spent hours shopping to find the right dress, but it had all been worth it. Michaela’s dress was long-sleeved, sparkly, and silver. It fit her body like a glove and hit just below her knees. Her blond hair was pulled back in a French twist and snowflake earrings dangled from her ears. To add a touch of color and complete her ensemble, Michaela wore a pair of cherry red heels.
On the way to the party, Michaela had tried not to talk shop, but she and Owen couldn’t help but gossip. They chatted effortlessly making the drive time fly by. The Callaghan house was picturesque, magazine worthy. Nathalie and Liam certainly had a knack for decorating. Michaela and Owen stepped out of the car. Michaela wrapped her coat around her tighter. Her heels made a click-clack sound as she slowly made her way across the icy sidewalk to the front door. Owen walked behind her ready to catch her if she fell. Their frosty breath clouded around them like cigarette smoke. They reached the door, and Michaela knocked. No one answered. She tried again and yet nothing.
“Maybe they can’t hear me.” She said and she opened the door.
“Hello!” “Helloooo! She and Owen called as they stepped into the house.
They walked into the kitchen first. Then they walked back through the foyer to the living room. As soon as Michaela spotted Liam on the floor, she ran over to him. Owen ran to the two on the couch. They couldn’t rouse them.
“Oh my God! Owen! Oh my God!” She panicked. She took out her phone and was calling 911 when Owen started pulling her away.
“Michaela, stay on the line, but we need to get out of the house.”
“I can’t leave them!”
“We’ll get them help, but something is not right here.”
They made their way out of the house and waited for the ambulance and police to arrive. The police ensured that as the other guests arrived they didn’t enter the house.
Michaela and Owen followed the ambulances to the hospital. Although they would have to stay in the hospital overnight, the doctors and nurses managed to get Nathalie and Joel awake. Liam, on the other hand, was not doing well. Upon hearing this news, Michaela went to the chapel. Nathalie and Joel prayed from their beds.
Owen made his way into Liam’s room unnoticed. Liam lay in his hospital bed. Wires were attached to his body and a tube was in his mouth. Liam opened his eyes. All of the doctors and nurses were blurs, but he could see a man bathed in a bright white light.
“What’s happening? Am I dead?” Liam asked.
“I’m not ready to be dead! Are you…?”
“An angel? Yes. Liam, God sent me because he wanted you to know that you’re not alone. That even though you’ve strayed from Him, He still loves you.”
“He does?” Liam cried.
“Wow. I’ve really screwed up. I’ve been so angry. Will God ever forgive me?”
“He already has.”
Liam opened his eyes again and this time the world was in focus.
“Welcome back Liam,” said one of the doctors. “You gave us quite the scare.”
“Oh my God.” Liam replied.