Courageous: Afterlife Book FourWillow Rose
Copyright Willow Rose 2013
Published by Jan Sigetty Boeje
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Cover design by Jan Sigetty Boeje
Special thanks to my editor Jean Pacillo
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Where there is desire, there is going to be a flame.
Where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned.
But just because it burns, doesn't mean you're gonna die.
You've gotta get up and try, try, try.
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
- Nelson Mandela
I WAS TERRIFIED. But who could blame me? Who isn't when staring down at themselves one last time before they walk down the aisle? The white fluffy dress that Mick picked out for me, the veil, the flowers in my hand. It was all horrifying and yet so incredibly beautiful.
"You look gorgeous."
Abhik stood next to me smiling widely. He had come down from Heaven to be there for Mick's and my wedding. It had been two weeks since he and I graduated and I hadn't seen him since. He had gone with the rest of the class into Heaven to begin their new lives while I had stayed back at the Academy to have Mick's baby and get married. Abhik looked strong and very happy. He had finally gotten the big thick hair he always wanted, hair like a great lion, as he used to put it and it looked great on him. Admitted, it took some getting used to and I did stare at it a lot when I first saw it since I had never seen him with any hair at all. I was really happy for him that he finally had his wishes come true and was able to put the cancer and the life as a patient on Earth behind him. The hospital gown was gone and so was his weak expression from being sick all of his life. Now he was wearing a loosely fitted silk robe, a Kurta, a traditional Indian costume. It was very elegant and according to Abhik very comfortable.
"What's it like?" I asked. "What's Heaven like?"
Abhik smiled even wider. "It's wonderful. Much greater than anything you can ever imagine. But you'll see for yourself soon. It's difficult to describe. No words suffice. It's just ... just so ... amazing."
"I can't wait," I said and touched my stomach gently. "But first things first."
"How are you feeling?" Abhik said.
"Well, I guess I have it easier than humans. Since my baby is a spirit I haven't gained much weight carrying him ... or her. I'm more than six months pregnant but I can hardly feel it on my body. My stomach has grown but not by that much."
"It's amazing. I can hardly tell," Abhik said. "Can I?"
I nodded. He reached out and put his hand on my stomach. Abhik was being nice. I turned and looked at my stomach from the side and it did show clearly that I was carrying a baby, but I didn't mind. I had obsessed about it slightly in the beginning. I didn't want people to think this was the only reason for us to marry each other, but I learned to let it go. I had to stop thinking about what other people thought about me.
"It's kicking!" Abhik said and looked up at me.
"Does that day and night," I said feeling tired. Even if the physical part of being pregnant wasn't as hard as I imagined it was to human women, the emotional stress coming from lack of sleep and racing hormones I would guess was about the same. I hadn't exactly been emotionally stable the last couple of weeks and it tore on me and also on Mick. Due to my tiredness and stress he had taken over all the planning. He picked out the dress, the flowers and pretty much arranged everything while I was busy complaining about how tired I was because the baby kept me awake day and night. The fun part is that we spirits don’t actually need sleep, but I kept proclaiming that I did, I had to be the one exception that couldn't survive without my sleep. At least that was how it felt. Luckily Mick was understanding and worshipped the ground I walked upon. He made sure I was always comfortable, that I didn't have to worry about a thing. It suited me perfectly so I let him smother me like he had always wanted to. I felt I deserved it since I was about to give birth to the child he had wanted all of his life. On the other hand I had never thought about having children, especially not after I died at age sixteen. I had kind of ruled that option out. But here it was, here I was with my growing stomach in a fluffy white dress that I would never have picked for myself, but I didn't care anymore. Details didn't bother me any longer. All I cared for was to give this child the best life I could. It wouldn't be the life I had known on Earth, it would be very different, but I had a feeling it would be wonderful. No earthly worries, I kept thinking. Who wouldn't want to grow up like that?
"So only three more months to go, and you're a mother, huh?" Abhik asked.
"Don't say that. It freaks me out to be perfectly frank. I'm scared to death." I turned and floated towards my bed and sat on it and hid my face in my hands. "What if I'm not cut out to be a mother? What if I do everything wrong? I don't have anyone to ask for help. My mother is not here and even if she was, well she never had a baby that was born as a spirit. Will anything I know about babies even help me?"
I felt Abhik's hand on my shoulder. "You'll be fine," he said. "You're going to be a wonderful mother, I just know it. If anyone can do it, it's you. Plus you're not alone, remember? You'll always have Mick."
Abhik put his arm around my shoulder. I leaned on it and let him comfort me. "I'm sorry," I said and wiped my eyes that had begun to tear up. "I'm just such a mess these days. Half of the time I'm excited and unstoppable, and then the other half, well ... you know. I'm just not sure about anything. I doubt myself."
Abhik looked at me with his brown eyes. "You don't doubt you and Mick, do you?"
I swallowed hard and shook my head heavily. I got up and floated towards the window. People were walking towards the sacred Phoenix Garden where the ceremony was to take place. They were chatting and laughing, looking forward to the big celebration of our love. I was scared to death about this, about what my life was going to be like, but did I doubt us? Did I doubt me and Mick? Not anymore than anyone about to tie the knot, I guessed. I mean I loved him and I was looking forward to our new life together, that was certain. I couldn't wait to see what our baby would look like and I knew Mick was going to be a wonderful father. But there were moments when I wondered if I only married him because it was the right thing to do. Because it was what people expected of me, it was what I expected of myself. Because my child needed his or her dad around. I didn't like to think about it and tried to not do so, but every now and then the thought entered my mind and planted a small seed of doubt. Was my love for him really enough? Was his love for me enough? Were we compatible? Was anyone ever really compatible? Could we live together for eternity? We had been through some really tough times and our love had survived all of that, so I knew we would be able to survive almost anything. Plus he made me feel safe. Being with him was safe. He never doubted his love for me so why should I doubt my love for him?
More spirits arrived most of them I had never seen before, but I gue
ssed they probably knew Mick. All of my old classmates were going to be there, but that was about it. Suddenly I missed my parents terribly. Those were the only ones I really wanted to be here on this day. I wanted my dad to give me away; I wanted my mother to cry when I walked past her down the aisle. But they couldn't be here. They still didn't know where I was or that I had died and I was planning on taking care of that as soon as this wedding was over with. I had been planning to visit them for two weeks now, ever since I got the book of my life and finally got to see them and remembered who they were. I was going down to Earth to give them closure one way or the other. I just hadn't yet figured out how I was going to do it. They deserved to peace at mind, to have final closure, and I wanted them to know that I was alright, that I was in a great place, living my life. I was looking very much forward to somehow see them again one way or the other.
Letting my parents know what happened to me wasn't my only mission during the coming months before I gave birth. Once I was done with them I was going to figure out where the rest of my file was. When I had received the book of my life after graduation an entire year was missing and several other places in my lifetime were not there anymore. So far Mick was the only one who knew about it, but as soon as the wedding was over I was going to talk to Salathiel about it. Because of summer break he hadn't been at the Academy since graduation, but I knew he was coming back to be at my wedding, since he was going to give me away, and that he was planning on staying a couple of days.
Yes, I had it all planned out for the next couple of months before the baby arrived and my life was going to be changed forever. But as I was about to experience soon, it is in death as it was in life; plans have a tendency to be changed.
I turned my head and looked determined at Abhik, my best friend the last three years at the Academy, my best friend since I died. Then I smiled.
"It's time," I said. "Let's get me married."
IT WAS LIKE an ocean of floating spirits and glowing Angels covering the entire area towards the Phoenix Garden. They all looked at me as I floated slowly across the grass towards the enormous gate that hadn't been opened in hundreds of years but now was about to become the scene for my wedding with Mick. I felt a nice chill running down my spine as the Angels sang their enchanted songs while I passed them on my way. The gate was still closed but I knew that behind it, on the other side Mick was waiting for me, nicely dressed and with expectations way beyond what I could ever live up to.
I took in a deep breath as I placed myself in front of the huge golden gate and the trumpets sounded my arrival. Slowly the gate opened and revealed an abundance of light that almost blinded me. A garden as magnificent as anything I could ever imagine lay before me. I gasped at its splendor. Flowers in colors I had never seen before, fountains, mountains, waterfalls, birds - I had never seen anything like it on Earth - singing enchanted tunes from every treetop and bush. Deer stared at me as the gate opened and I floated in. I was almost paralyzed in awe of this marvelous display of nature. I heard a sound and looked up and almost froze at the sight of a beautiful creature with wings made of gold above my head. It made a sound with its beak, it wasn't singing, it wasn't calling, it was just a sound that made me filled with incredible joy and I smiled.
"The Phoenix," I mumbled as I watched the magnificent bird as big as a large eagle with feathers made from pure gold. I was told they could live for more than a thousand years, and then turn into ashes from where a new baby Phoenix would be born. To me it was only a fairy-tale creature, until now when I spotted several of them circling over my head. Their colors were incredible and as the sun shone on their wings they glittered in the morning light coming from behind the mountain with waterfall.
In front of me a huge light was approaching and soon I realized it was Salathiel. He was glowing and lighting up the entire garden. As he came closer, he smiled gently and reached out his arms to grab my hands.
"Dear, Meghan," he said then pulled me close and hugged me tight. He was three times the size of me so his hug completely covered me. It felt nice now that I couldn't have my father here with me. I was instantly filled with warmth and happiness.
He let go of me, then stared into my eyes. "Are you ready?" he asked.
I exhaled deeply. Then I nodded. A Phoenix squealed above my head and dove in the air very close to Salathiel.
"I'm ready," I said.
Salathiel turned and stood on my side. Then he nodded his head and three smaller Angels flew towards me. Three angelic children who were about my size carried a huge red pillow that they asked me to sit upon. Then they lifted me into the air until I became the height of Salathiel.
"Let's do this," he said and the pillow began to move and I with it.
There was low singing from the Angels following us as we slowly moved through the forest and deeper into the garden. My stomach spun wildly. It was so beautiful. I felt a tear escape the corner of my eye as we took a turn and came onto a small path leading towards an arch made of flowers and gold. Under it Mick was waiting, dressed nicely in black and white tie. His blond hair was combed back. He smiled nervously when he saw me. Our eyes locked while I was carried towards him, along the path with golden bricks. How I wished my parents could have been there.
I was finally put down in front of Mick who bowed to me then helped me off the pillow and soon I was in front of him, my eyes still locked in his. He smiled like he was relieved that I had shown up and not let him down once again.
"You look absolutely ..." he paused then gazed at my dress. "I'm lost for words," he whispered.
I smiled shyly and then looked down for a few seconds. When I looked up Mick was still gazing at me with a proud look in his eyes.
A bright light shone in front of us and a feeling of calmness and of being complete and loved merged inside us both as Rahmiel, the Angel of love and mercy, appeared. She was smiling widely as well.
I looked up at her face. She looked at me, then at Mick. Thousands of Angels and spirits oozed in behind us and found a place to stand and watch the ceremony. There were so many there that they had to float above each other, high up in the air, to be able to see properly.
"Let the ceremony begin!" Rahmiel exclaimed as hundreds of trumpets sounded at once and stringers followed creating a beautiful ambiance in the garden.
Rahmiel spoke for several minutes about marriage and its meaning for us who were supposed to be together for eternity. How wondrous the love between spirits and how it was important for us to cherish it and protect it with all we had and knew.
"Sometimes marriage means fighting for each other," she stated. "Even in hard times when you don't want to. Are you prepared to do that?"
We kept staring into each other's eyes while we both nodded. We had already been through so much; we had fought so long for our love. I was certain I could do that. So was Mick. I could tell in his eyes. He was determined. He had been that from the beginning. I couldn't recall one moment when he hadn't been certain of me, certain that he wanted me. I liked that he had seen me and went for me like that. While Rahmiel spoke I thought about the first time we met on the steamboat just after I had died. I felt so lost and confused and there he had been with his calmness and soothing voice. He talked to me and made me feel really comfortable. He had a way of doing that. I knew now that he had wanted me from that second on the boat. He had spotted me and after talking to me he had known. I liked that. He had never given up on me. Not even when I let him down again and again. Not even when I fell in love with someone else. It must have been so hard on him, I thought while getting lost in his deep blue eyes. To see the one you love running after some other guy, seeing her want him more than you. When Rahmiel spoke I decided to put it all behind me, behind us. The jealousy, the bitterness. It was all over now. Once this ceremony was over I belonged to him and I was going to be a devoted wife and mother. I was going to make him proud of me. I was determined. Once we were married there was no more reason for him to be jealous.<
It would all be behind us.
I heard Mick say the famous words: "I do," then it was my turn.
"So now I ask you Meghan. Will you take Mick as your husband and promise to love and honor him for all eternity?"
I smiled widely staring into Mick's eyes. I had asked them to make the wedding as close to what I was used to, as close to the human wedding as possible and they were doing the best they could. I couldn't help laughing gently at the missing "till death do you part."
"I do," I said.
Rahmiel's light shone even brighter as she declared us "husband and wife." The entire garden broke into a huge cheer as all the spirits and Angels started clapping and singing. The music from the many Angels almost lifted us into air. It was amazing, overwhelming. Then Mick leaned over, carefully removed the veil and kissed me gently. I closed my eyes as the crowd broke into an even louder cheer. Mick's lips were soft and warm.
Then he let go and I opened my eyes and stared directly into his. He smiled and we both laughed. Then we turned to face the crowd. As we floated down the golden brick road it was raining flowers and butterflies were swarming us. Phoenixes squealed in the air while their golden wings glittered. Angels sang and trumpets sounded. Mick held my hand and led me towards the exit.
"I HAVE SOMETHING for you," Mick said as soon as we were alone in our new chambers in the tower of the northeastern part of the white marble castle. The Angels had given us this room to live in the last three months of our time here. The view was spectacular. They had given us the best room in the entire castle, no doubt about it.
Mick carried me through the door and we floated towards the bed, laughing. Now we had a few hours to ourselves before the big dinner at Hornam Hall to celebrate our wedding. I enjoyed finally not having thousands of spirits and Angels staring at me. Finally being able to just be me. Me and him. Alone.