Chapter 1

Méav Ní Stóirín grew up in Ireland, along with her parents, Róisín and Críostóir, and her younger brother, Aindréas. The four were a loving, happy family of musical, church-going Christians. Róisín and Críostóir never, not once, had to discipline or punish the children, for they always behaved like good, little angels. The sweetest angel was the beautiful Méav. She had the kindest, warmest heart anyone had ever known, and her soul was pure enough that people often mistook her for a real angel. Well, to her friends, family, and all who knew her, she was. Aindréas would jokingly tell her he was jealous of her. He would even say he wished he could be an angel, too. Aindréas and Méav were not like most brothers and sisters. They never fought. They got along very well, and they were the best of friends. They never saw any point in arguing over silly things. The Ní Stóiríns immigrated to America when Méav was fifteen, and Aindréas was nearly fourteen. They settled in Manhattan, New York. Things seemed to be going very smoothly for the family. Róisín and Críostóir were working at Christian City Church for the choir. Róisín was the director, and Críostóir accompanied the choir on the piano. As for Méav and Aindréas, they were doing quite well at Manhattan Magnet High School. Aindréas was a freshman, but taking college-level courses, such as calculus. Not only that, but he was also on the football team, part of the drama club, and also in the school's choir. Méav was also taking college-level courses, and she, too, was part of the drama club, as well as the choir. She was also in charge of decorations for the school's dance committee, and she was a cheerleader. Méav and Aindréas were not only popular in school, but more importantly, they were role models for other students in so many ways. Outside of school, Méav and Aindréas were members of their parents' church choir, and for every charity held by the church, they put their full hearts and souls into making the world a better place. They gave away old toys they didn't want anymore, clothes they had outgrown, and made delicious meals for the needy families. They even went to many hospitals to visit the sick patients, and they always managed to cheer them up. They even visited several nursing homes to entertain the elderly. Méav and Aindréas were saints, loved by everyone who knew them, and made their parents more than proud to be raising two amazing children. Yes, things seemed to be going very well for the Ní Stoirins, until a few weeks into Méav's junior year in high school. Her grades were still excellent, and she was still a role model. Her heart of gold remained ever so sweet and kind, and her soul remained as pure and clean as a river in heaven. None of that changed.

It all started when the school's heartbreaker, Jake Freestone, asked Méav out. All her friends thought she was the luckiest girl in school. He seemed charming and sweet. Méav's parents liked him. However, nobody knew the socalled, charming, high school senior had a dark secret, hidden beneath all his fake sweetness. Two weeks into the relationship was when he revealed his true nature, when he and Méav were on a date. The two were on their way back from a school dance. It was dark, and Méav was very tired. Jake decided that was his chance, so he parked his BMW behind a grove of trees. He looked at her. "Méav?" "Hmm?" responded a very sleepy Méav. "You wanna get it on with me?" Méav was too tired to understand what those disgusting words meant. "Get what on?" That's when Jake knew for sure that it was his chance. He took both his and Méav's seatbelts off, grabbed her, and tore her clothes off. She tried to fight to free herself from his strong grip, but he had already stripped himself, and made his move. It all seemed to happen so fast. The next thing Méav knew, she was back in her clothes, and racing up to the front porch stairs to her house. She ran inside as fast as she possibly could. Fearful that Jake was still chasing her, she slammed and locked the front door, and zoomed into the living room, where she found her mother. When Róisín saw the frightened expression on Méav's face, and heard her heavy panting, she jumped up, and held her tightly. "Méav, Darling, what's the matter?" Méav was so relieved to see her mother. She broke down into tears. "Sweetheart, what happened?" Méav was hyperventilating, and could not speak. Did that boy do something to something to you?" Méav nodded. "What, Dear?" "He raped me," Méav answered, choked up. "What?!" Róisín shrieked. "I'm sorry, Mummy," Méav sobbed. "I'm so sorry." "Oh, no, Sweetheart." Róisín held her daughter tighter. "I didn't mean to hurt you." "No, Sweetheart, you didn't hurt me. Jake hurt us all. It's not your fault. It's his." Méav continued to weep, and Róisín dried her tears. "Darling, we'll do our best to make sure he won't hurt you again. I promise." About two weeks after, Méav took a home pregnancy test, and it was positive. Apparently, Jake was spying on her through her bathroom window, because the next day, after school, he followed her to her car, and brought up the subject. "So, I hear you're knocked up," Jake snarled.


Méav didn't answer him. She was too afraid to speak to him. "Will ya marry me?" Again, Méav didn't answer. "If you say no to me, I'm gonna have to kill you, so just say yes." Méav burst into tears. "Just say yes, and nobody gets hurt." Méav could not speak, but she knew she had to say yes to protect herself and her unborn child. She was about to answer. "Oh, for God's sake, Méav, just answer the damn question!" Jake screamed in anger. Before Méav could say yes, Jake had grabbed her body, and picked her up. Méav screamed as loud as she could, hoping someone would hear her. "Help!" Jake put his hand over her mouth. "Shut up!" He threw her into his car, strapped her in, and locked the door. Before she could get out of the car, and break free, Jake had already gotten in the car, and sped down the road. He dragged her to Jolie, Illinois, where she had no choice, but to spend the rest of her life there, married to Jake.


Chapter 2
For years, Méav was trapped in fear. Jake Freestone had grown more and more evil with time. He was an abusive, violent man, and he did anything and everything in his power to hurt the beautiful, angelic Méav. He constantly put her down, and even beat her whenever he was angry. Another awful thing he did was smoke numerous cigarettes a day just to blow smoke in her face. Méav had her own car, which was good. However, Jake would only let her out of the house if she was wearing her tracking bracelet, so he would know if she tried to run away. To make matters worse, the two were raising a daughter, Hannah. Hannah was not abused by her father. However, she saw her father abusing her mother, and she never understood why. Although Jake was very gentle with her, she was still so afraid to ask him why he was always so cruel to Méav, because she was afraid that he would start abusing her, too. All poor Hannah could do was watch him abuse her beloved mother, and pray for it all to stop. One night, seven years into the marriage, the three were preparing for bed. Just as Jake had crawled under the covers, Méav headed for the bedroom door. "Where the hell are you going?" he snapped. "To tuck Hannah in," Méav answered. "Whatever. Just hurry up, damn it. I'm sick of you slowing things down." Méav hid her hurt behind a sweet smile as she entered Hannah's bedroom, and closed the door behind her. "Hi, my beautiful angel," she said as she knelt beside Hannah's bed. "Hi, Mommy," greeted Hannah. "Are you ready for your bedtime story?" "Mommy, can I ask you a question?" "What, Sweetie?" "Why is Daddy so mean to you?" Tears fell from Méav's eyes when she heard that. "I don't know, my angel. He's always been like this." "Does it make you sad and scared?" "Very much." Méav tried to fight her tears. "I'm scared, too." "Why, Precious?" "I don't want him to kill you," Hannah sobbed, "because I love you." "Aww, Sweetie." Méav put her arm around Hannah. "And, I'm scared he's gonna kill me, too." "Oh, no, Baby." That hit Méav. As she held her weeping child in her arms, she realised that she had to free both of them from that evil man. "Well, it won't happen anymore, because tonight, we're leaving." "When Daddy falls asleep, we'll leave, and we'll go far away." "And, Daddy won't hurt us?" "No. Now, you pack your toys and blanky into your toy bag. I'll pack your clothes, and by then, Daddy should be asleep. Okay?" "Okay, Mommy."


"Just be very quiet." After the two finished packing their things, Méav checked to see if Jake was finally asleep. "Alright, Sweetie," she whispered to Hannah. "He's asleep. Let's go." Méav carried Hannah's bags, and they both tiptoed out the door. They quickly packed the car, and jumped in, before Jake would discover them. This time, Méav did not wear her tracking bracelet. Just as they pulled out of the driveway, Hannah saw the light go on in Jake's room. "Mommy, Daddy woke up," she trembled. "Then, we need to get away now," said Méav as she drove away from the house. Méav returned to Manhattan, New York. She made a stop at McDonald's to pick up meals for her and Hannah, and also to make a phone call to her parents, using a payphone in the parking lot. "Mum? Yes, it's me. Aww, I missed you, too! I just called to let you know that I'm on my way home, and I'll explain everything then. Okay. I love you, too. I love you so much. Bye."


Chapter 3
When Méav arrived back home to her family, she explained everything to them. "I was too frightened to escape, until my daughter made me realise that I had to protect both of us." She broke down, sobbing. "I didn't realise what it was doing to my baby, until she told me she was scared that he would kill both of us." Róisín held Méav, and stroked her hair. "It's alright, Darling," she said in a soothing, comforting tone of voice. "You're safe now." "I'm so sorry for leaving you all." "Méav, don't blame yourself," said Críostóir. "You're home now, and if I ever see that bastard again, I will send him straight to hell." Méav giggled through her tears. "I missed you all so much." "We missed you, too, Love," Críostóir sighed happily. "We missed you very much," added Róisín. "This whole town missed you." "But, one good thing came out of this. You have a beautiful daughter, and we have a beautiful granddaughter." Críostóir gasped when he realised what he said. "Oh, dear. I'm Old Grandpa!" he laughed. Róisín laughed as well. "We're Old Grandma and Grandpa!" All three laughed together, just like they used to. "Oh, I love Hannah so dearly," Méav said with a sweet smile. "We know," agreed Róisín. "You did such a brave thing for her." "We're so, very proud of you," said Críostóir, "and we're so happy to have you home again." "Me, too, Daddy." Méav hugged and kissed her parents. "Where's Aindréas?" "He's in college," answered Críostóir. "He's graduating in the spring." "He's studying to become a doctor," said Róisín. "He's already earned a scholarship for medical school." "I'm so happy for him," said Méav, "and I can't wait to see him again." "He'll be home for Christmas in three weeks," said Críostóir. "He'll be so glad to see you." "And, Hannah, too," added Róisín. Just when Méav was about to speak, she was interrupted by a cough. "Darling, are you alright?" asked a worried Críostóir. "Oh, I'm fine," said Méav. Then, she coughed again. "Are you sure?" "Yes. I must've caught a little cold." "Okay, Love," Críostóir chuckled.


Chapter 4
Everyone in Manhattan was overjoyed to see Méav again after nearly seven lonely years without her. Since her return, she rejoined the church choir, and as for charity work, well, she put even more heart and soul into it. Christmas was right around the corner, but Méav saw so much heartbreak around her. There were families living on the streets, and families on the verge of losing their homes. There were so many children in the hospitals, dying of some sort of illness. Some had one of many types of cancer, and others had even more painful diseases. It didn't matter what they had. They were all sick, all in pain, all very sad to be dying so young, and all frightened to death. There were children being abused by one parent, both parents, or someone else, and there were even children with no parents or families at all. It shattered Méav's big heart. One afternoon, Méav and her family were rehearsing with the choir. They were planning a major Christmas concert. They had chosen all the songs they wanted to perform. However, they were still trying to decide on the location of the performance, the costumes for the choir, and they still had to hold auditions for soloists. "I think we should all wear white, so we look like a choir of Christmas angels," Méav suggested. "The women can wear long, white, strapless dresses, and the men can wear white tuxedoes." "I think that would look absolutely stunning," agreed Róisín. Everyone else nodded and murmured in agreement. "Alright. Then, we'll order the costumes. Now, does anyone have any idea where we should hold our performance?" Nobody answered. "No ideas yet?" Everyone shook their heads. "Oh, well. We still have a couple of weeks to decide. We still have to audition soloists, and we'll work on that today. There are enough solo parts for everyone. We just need to decide who should sing which one. Alright, let's warm up." After rehearsal, Hannah went home with her grandparents, while Méav decided to visit a few sick children in the children's hospital. "Hello. I'm here to visit the children," Méav said to the secretary at the front desk. "Méav! Welcome back!" the secretary greeted happily. "Thank you!" Méav giggled. "They're in the playroom." "Okay. Thank you." Méav rushed off to the playroom, where she saw a large group of sick children, playing together. She slowly walked in. "Hi, everybody." Some of the children knew who she was. Most of them were not sick back then, but they had met her in other places. They ran to her, so happy to see her. "It's Méav!" a little girl, Teresa, cried out. "She's back!"


"Who's Méav?" asked Daniel. "She's a real angel!" Nicolas answered. "Really?" "Yeah!" "Aww, thank you, everybody!" Méav cried. "I'm so happy to be back." "We missed you, Méav," said Haylie. "I missed you, too, Haylie. I can't believe you remember me. You were so little when I last saw you." "You can't forget a real angel," said Haylie. "Haylie, why are you in the hospital? I remember you being as healthy as a horse, the last time I saw you. I know a lot of you weren't sick when I last saw you. What happened?" "I have cancer," answered Nicolas. "Me, too," said Haylie. "I have heart failure," answered Teresa. Méav tried to hold back tears. "I'm so sorry." "I'm really scared, Méav. The doctor says I'm gonna die," Teresa wept, cuddling in Méav's arms. "I don't wanna die." "I don't wanna die, either," Daniel sobbed. "Awww, come here, all of you." Méav held her arms wide open, and all the children crawled onto her lap and around her. She held them all close. "I know how frightening it must be for you. I've never been as ill as you, but I have put myself in your shoes so many times. Death can be a frightening concept, especially at such a young age, but heaven waits for you. Do you all believe in God?" The children all nodded. "Then, you know you'll be in good hands. You will get into heaven if you're a good person, and I can tell, just by looking, that you are all wonderful people. You'll definitely get into heaven. I have no doubts." "What's heaven like?" asked Kristen. "Well, I've never been there, but I imagine that it's the most wonderful place you will ever see. I believe that, when you go there, you feel no pain at all. You won't be sick anymore. There's no sadness in heaven, and God is so nice. If you think he's wonderful now, just imagine what he's like in person, and there are angels there, too. Everyone in heaven is good. I know you'll love it there, and you can watch over the ones you love." "Do they have junk food in heaven?" asked Nicolas. Méav giggled. "They probably do." "And, you can eat as much as you want, and never, ever, ever get sick?" "There's no illness in heaven." "Cool!" Méav giggled again. "Méav, you have a pretty laugh," said Haylie. "Awww, thank you!" Méav kissed Haylie's forehead. "Will you sing to us, please?" asked Joseph. "Yes, absolutely. Do you all know Silent Night?"


"Yeah, that's my favourite Christmas song," said Kristen. "Mine, too," agreed Kyle. "Well, I'd like to sing it to you in Gaelic. I come from a country called Ireland, and in Ireland, they have a language called Gaelic. It's a beautiful language, especially when used in a song. I'll sing the first verse of Silent Night in Gaelic. Then, we'll all sing it together, in English. Okay?" "Cool!" Kyle responded. Méav sang the Gaelic words of Silent Night so beautifully, bringing tears to the children's eyes. Then, they all sang the English words together. For a moment, the children had forgotten all about their illnesses, and their fear of dying. The smiles on their faces brought tears of joy to Méav's eyes. That's when Méav realised that she could do even more to make thousands of other children happy. She wanted to give Manhattan a beautiful memory of the most magical Christmas ever known to man. Not only that, but she wanted to make life better for people, because she believed that everyone deserved to be happy.


Chapter 5
Just as Méav left the hospital, she ran into an old friend from high school, who was also a friend from the church choir. "Méav?" "Aaliyah!" They ran to each other, and hugged. "How long has it been, girl?" asked Aaliyah. "About seven years," Méav chuckled. "Where've you been all this time?" "Jake Freestone got me pregnant, and forced me to marry him. We've been in Illinois all this time." "Oh, my God! Why would he do that?" "I don't know." "How did he treat you?" "He was very violent." "Oh, no!" Aaliyah was shocked. "How did you get away?" "I waited until he was asleep." "Wow, that was smart. So, how are you now?" "I'm doing much better. What made me realise that I needed to leave him was my little girl." "You have a daughter? What's her name?" "Her name is Hannah." "Is she the kid I saw, watching us in rehearsal today?" "Yes." "She's so beautiful!" "She's the only thing that kept me from falling apart. She's my baby." "Aww. So, were you just seeing the kids in the hospital again?" "Yes, and some of the children I knew from a long time ago, who were so healthy back then, are sick. It just breaks my heart." "That's so sad," Aaliyah said sympathetically. "I was pretty surprised that they remembered me, because they were so little when I last saw them. I asked them how they remembered me, and they said they never forget a real angel." "Aww, that's sweet!" "They're scared to death of dying. Poor things." "I can totally imagine." "As I was holding them, and singing to them, I saw the smiles on their faces, and I realised that I want to do that for so many other people." "You can make anyone happy, girl." "I'm going to do what I can to make this Christmas wonderful for everyone in Manhattan, and not just Christmas, but life. I believe everyone deserves to be happy. No one deserves to suffer." "Well, don't work too hard," Aaliyah joked. Méav laughed. "I won't." "But, I say go for it, girl!" Méav smiled. "So, how's everyone been doing?"


Aaliyah sighed. "Honestly, this whole city went to hell after you disappeared. We all missed you so much. Sean especially missed you." "Sean Archuleta! How is he now?" "He's been really depressed, but I think he lit up when you came to rehearsal today." "Oh, that's good." "All he talked about was you, and it made me miss you even more." "Awww." Méav hugged Aaliyah. "I missed you, too, Sweetie." "You were like my sister." "Aww, you, too." "Well, do you wanna get out of the cold? I don't know about you, but I'm freezing out here." "It is a bit chilly," Méav chuckled. "Come on. Let's go to that diner across the street. It's close, and there's food!" Both girls laughed as they crossed the street to the diner, and went inside to eat. They sat down at a table by the window, in the sunlight. Just as soon as they sat down, the waitress stopped at their table. "Hello, girls. I'm Chastity. What can I get you to drink?" "I'd like a Dr. Pepper, please," said Aaliyah. "And, I'd like sweetened tea, please," added Méav. "Okay, I'll be right back," said Chastity as she finished writing down the drink orders, and left the table. "Aaliyah, Sweetie, how have you been?" asked Méav. "Okay, I guess," Aaliyah responded. "Are you married yet?" "No, but I'm seeing someone. Remember Dylan from choir?" "Oh, yes! I remember you had a big crush on him in school." Aaliyah laughed and blushed. "Yeah, well, he finally asked me out, right before senior prom." "Aww, I can't believe I missed the prom!" "It's not your fault. It's Jake's fault. I can't believe I used to think he was hot." "He had me under his spell for the first two weeks." "Then, everything went straight to hell, right?" Méav giggled again. "I guess you can say that." "What an ass. I'm sorry to sound so mean by saying that," Aaliyah laughed nervously. "It's okay." "I guess I just get really pissed off when I see someone I care about get treated like crap." "Aww." "You're my sister, girl. Nobody messes with my girl." They both laughed together, until Méav was interrupted by another cough. "You okay, Hun?" asked a concerned Aaliyah. "Oh, yes. I'm alright. I think it's just a cold."


"Ugh, I hate getting colds, especially around Christmas." "I know," Méav chuckled. "They're not very pleasant. "Nope," Aaliyah agreed. "Anyway, how are you and Dylan?" "We're great. I really love him now. He's a sweetheart." "He's your sweetheart." "Absolutely," Aaliyah said in a flirty tone. "Awww." "I missed hearing you say that all the time, girl!" Aaliyah joked. "That's always been my favourite word." Aaliyah laughed. "Oh, I missed you so much, Aaliyah. I'm so glad to be back, and you look even more beautiful than you did in high school." "Aww, Méavy! You're too sweet!" "I mean it." "You look even more beautiful, too."


Chapter 6
As Méav and Aaliyah left the diner, laughing and joking, Méav spotted a mother, dragging her young daughter along the sidewalk. "Let's go, now!" the mother shouted at the little girl, pulling her arm. "Oww!" the little girl screamed. "Mommy, you're hurting me!" The mother angrily picked the girl up, and hit her repetitively. "That poor little girl," Méav responded, wiping tears away. Aaliyah took off after the mother. "Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing to that kid?!" The mother kept running and beating the child, and Aaliyah kept chasing her. "Hey, bitch, you shouldn't even be allowed near kids!" The woman did not listen. She just slammed the child in the back seat of her car, jumped in, and sped down the road. "You're going to hell!" Aaliyah screamed. Then, she ran back to Méav, fighting tears. "I couldn't stop her, Méav. I'm sorry." Méav held Aaliyah, and cried with her. "It's okay, Sweetie. I won't give up. No child deserves this." The next day, Méav was on her way back from choir rehearsal, when she saw a family of a mother, a father, a little girl, and a teenage boy, on the street, digging through a garbage can to find food. She parked the car at the side of the road, and sauntered towards them. "I found some French fries, Daddy," said the little girl, Ginger. "Hello," Méav greeted the family. "Are you looking for something to eat?" "Yeah," Samuel, the father said sadly. "What happened to you? Why are you living on the streets?" "We lost our house," said Ginger. "There was a big flood two months back, and a lot of people's homes got destroyed," Samuel added. "Oh, no! I'm so sorry! Is there anything I can do to help you?" "We really don't wanna give you too much trouble," said Laura, the mother. "No, no, it's no trouble at all," Méav said sweetly. "Look, Miss, you're really sweet," said Cole, their son, "but you really don't have to do anything for us. We'll be fine." "I'm not doing anything, because I feel I have to. I'm doing it, because I want to. Please give me a chance to help you. If there's anything you need, I'll do my very best for you. Please?" "Can you find us a place to live?" asked Samuel. "I'll do my best. I promise." "We appreciate the gesture," said Laura. "It's no trouble." "Thank you so much," said Cole. "You're very welcome." Méav smiled ever so sweetly at the family. "By the way, what's your name?" asked Laura. "I'm Méav."


"Well, Méav, it was really nice meeting you," said Samuel. "I'm Samuel. This is my wife, Laura, and our kids, Cole and Ginger." "It's so nice meeting you, too," Méav said cheerfully. "You're really pretty, Méav," said Ginger. Méav knelt down, and put her hand on Ginger's shoulder. "Awww, you're so sweet. I think you're very beautiful, too." "Thank you." "How old are you, Ginger?" "Seven." "Wow! You know, I have a daughter, Hannah, and she's only a year younger than you." "Is she nice like you?" "She's very kind." "Can I come over, and play with her one day?" "Absolutely! I think she's love to meet you." "Are you really gonna find a home for us?" "I will do my absolute best for you." "Thank you." "Aww, you're very welcome." Méav kissed Ginger on the cheek, and stood up. "Yes, thank you, Méav," said Samuel. "You don't know what this means to us." "Oh, I love helping people. It means a lot to me, too." "If you can't find a home for us, will you at least pray for us?" asked Cole. "Absolutely."


Chapter 7
Méav looked hard for a home for the families that had lost theirs. Two days later, she and Hannah were at Aaliyah's house, eating lunch. Aaliyah was helping Méav find a good place for the homeless families. "Do you have any ideas?" Méav asked. "Well, there's a hotel across town that's going out of business. Not very many people check in anymore, so they're trying to figure out what to do with the place. Maybe that could be a shelter." "Maybe." "I don't know why people stopped checking in, because that hotel is, like, awesome! I mean, it's a luxury hotel with really low prices! The suites are so beautiful, and the beds are so comfortable." "How big is the hotel?" "It's huge! It's, like, twenty-five floors high!" "I think that may be perfect." "Maybe we can go there, and tell them our idea." "What are you talking about?" asked a curious Hannah. "We're trying to find a good place for homeless people to live," answered Aaliyah. "What's homeless?" "A homeless person is someone who has no home," Méav replied. "Why?" "Sometimes, they can't afford to pay for their homes anymore, or their homes get ruined in awful weather. Two months ago, there was a flood, and a lot of people's homes were ruined." "That's really sad." "It is, but Aaliyah and I are looking for a good home for them. I think we may have found a good place." "You're the best mommy ever, Mommy." "Aww." Méav hugged and kissed Hannah. Then, as she took a sip of her water, she accidentally swallowed it the wrong way. However, her coughing sounded more painful than swallowing water crooked. "Aww, Méavy, that cold sounds really bad," said Aaliyah. "Are you sure that's all it is?" "I think so," Méav coughed. "Plus, I accidentally swallowed my water the wrong way." "Oh!" Aaliyah laughed. "I hate it when I do that!" Hannah gently tapped Méav's back to help ease the coughing. "Are you okay, Mommy?" she asked. "Yes, Sweetie," said Méav. "Thank you." Later, that day, the three drove down to the hotel to speak with the manager and the staff. The manager lit up when he saw the three walking in. "Hello. How long would you like to stay?" he asked, excitedly. "Oh, no, we're not here to check in," said Méav.


"Oh," the manager said, disappointedly. "I'm so sorry." "We heard your hotel's going out of business," said Aaliyah, "and you were trying to figure out what to do with it." The manager sighed sadly. "Yeah, hardly anybody checks in here anymore, and if we can't come up with any ideas, we're done for." "Well, we might have an idea," said Méav. "Remember that flood we had a couple months ago?" asked Aaliyah. "Yeah," the manager replied. "A lot of people lost their homes, because of it. I was thinking that this could be a place for them to stay, until they can get back on their feet again." "That's a good idea, but how will we come up with enough money to pay for the food and clothes?" "Oh, I'd be more than happy to help out," Méav said happily. "I think I know of a great way to raise a whole lot to help. There's going to be a choir concert on Christmas Eve, and I'll ask if what we raise from the tickets can go to charity." "Well, I'll tell you what. If the choir committee says yes, I'd be honoured to turn this hotel into a shelter for the homeless." "Thank you so much, sir. I will ask at rehearsal tomorrow." "Thank you, Ma'am." "Have a good day," said Aaliyah as the three headed for the door. "You, too." "Have a good day, nice man," Hannah said politely. "You, too, kid." At their next rehearsal, Róisín had just finished the solo auditions. "Well, now, all that's left is to find a good location for the concert," she said. "Has anyone thought of any ideas?" Méav raised her hand. "Yes?" "Well, I think we should have the concert at our community theatre. It seats a lot more people, and the acoustics are wonderful." "What a terrific idea! Who else agrees?" Everyone else nodded. "Good! Then, we'll hold our concert there. Also, I was wondering what we should do with the money we raise from all the tickets." "Well, there is a hotel that is going out of business." "I heard about that." "I think we should donate to them, so they can turn their hotel into a homeless shelter. I met a family, a couple days ago, who lost their home due to a recent flood. I think any homeless family will be grateful, not only to have a roof over their heads, but to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed, and eat delicious, sanitary food." "Méav, that is the best idea ever!" Sean agreed. "How much do you all think we should charge for the tickets?" asked Róisín.


"They should pay as much as they want to donate," said Aaliyah. "And, if there's anyone who can't afford the tickets, I'll gladly pay for them," Dylan chimed in. "I got a major bonus check at work last week." Róisín's eyes filled with tears. "I have never been so proud of such wonderful people in my entire life." "Maybe we should have a party after the concert, where we give gifts to the poor," Sean suggested. "Oh, I would love to cook and bake the food for it," added Méav. "I know, if we all work together, and we work very hard, we can make that happen," responded an overjoyed Róisín. "Now, we just have to make the flyers, and hang them up, all over town. Can any of you stay for a while after rehearsal to help with that?" Everyone raised their hands. So, after rehearsal, the whole choir worked together to create beautiful flyers. They even drew pictures of Christmas trees, angels, and Santa Claus. Méav's drawings were the most beautiful, at least in the others' opinions, but she thought they all were wonderful artists. After they had finished making a tone of flyers, they all drove around town, and hung them up. As people walked by, they read the flyers, and became quite enthusiastic!


Chapter 8
As Méav and Hannah were in the car, about to head home, Sean sauntered over, and knocked on the window. "Hi!" Méav greeted happily. "Who's he?" asked Hannah. "He's an old friend from high school!" Méav rolled her window down. "Hi, Sean!" "Hey, Méav," Sean greeted. "How are you?!" "I'm… good. I really missed you." "I missed you, too. I guess you heard what happened." "Yeah. I heard about that loser, Jake." "He's my daddy," Hannah chimed in, "and I don't like him." Méav and Sean chucked. "He was really, really mean to Mommy." "How?" asked Sean, sympathetically. "What did that jerk do to her?" "He beat her up, and cussed at her, and blew smoke in her face, and he said really mean stuff to her." "Was he ever mean to you?" "No." "No," Méav chimed in, "he was never abusive to Hannah, but she was afraid he would lash out at her if she ever asked him why he was so cruel to me. She told me how much it hurt her that he treated me so badly. That's when I realised just how much of a danger he was to us." "How did you escape from him? Did you sneak out when he was asleep?" "Yep," said Hannah. "Ooh, clever!" Sean joked. Méav and Hannah laughed with him. "So, are you still married to him?" asked Sean. "Yes, but my mother sent divorce papers," said Méav. "So, you won't have to face him anymore?" "No." "Good." Sean paused, nervously. "Um… I was gonna ask you." "Yes?" "Do you think you might wanna have dinner sometime? There are some things I wanted to talk to you about." "I would love to!" "Can I call you? Is your mom's number still the same?" "Yes." "Okay. I'll call you in about an hour." "Okay, Sean. It was so nice seeing you again." "You, too." "Bye, Mr. Sean!" Hannah called, waving at him. Sean chucked. "Bye, Hannah."


One night later, Méav met up with Sean outside a romantic, Italian restaurant. "Hi, Sean," Méav greeted. "Hey," Sean replied shyly as they walked in. "How are you?" "I'm good. I'm a little nervous." "Nervous? Why?" "It's about what I wanted to talk about." "Aww, you don't have to be afraid to tell me anything." "Well, I don't know how you'll take it. I mean, it's a good thing, but I don't know if you'll think so." "Your table is ready," the maitre'd said, guiding the two to a booth under a dimmed light. "Your server will be with you momentarily." "Thank you," said Méav as the two sat down, next to each other. "Well, what did you want to talk to me about?" "Well, it's complicated," Sean stuttered. "It's alright." "Well…" Sean sighed, trying to build up his nerve. "Well, when we were friends in high school… I liked you as… more than a f-friend." "Really?" "Yeah. I was head-over-heals in love… and when that bastard kidnapped you… I almost… like… died. I was really depressed, because I thought I would never see you again. I almost… well… took my life… but I didn't. Aaliyah saved me from… that." "Oh, Sweetie, I'm so sorry, but I'm glad you decided not to take your own life. I'm glad you're still alive." "Well… here's the really hard part." Sean took a deep breath, and exhaled. "I'm still in love with you." Méav blushed. "I mean, I know you're still married, so I don't… wanna make you commit adultery." He laughed nervously. "I just… wanted to tell you how I felt, because I've kept this bottled up since I first met you." Méav blushed even more. "I guess… I'll understand if you don't like me like that, too. I just wanted to tell you how I feel. And… you don't have to answer me right now. You take as much time as you need to think about it. I'd honestly wait forever for you, Méav."


Chapter 9
The next morning, Méav, Róisín, Críostóir, and Hannah were all at a Christmas tree shop, picking out a perfect Christmas tree. In the past, Méav and Aindréas picked out a tree, but this year, Méav decided that it was Hannah's turn to choose. "Well, Hannah, what do you think?" asked Críostóir. "Can we get a big one?" asked Hannah. "We sure can," Róisín replied. "Okay." Hannah wandered around, looking at all the trees, but she was still in sight. She came across a wide, tall tree that looked as if a Christmas fairy had created it. "I found one!" she called, pointing to the tree. "Look! It's pretty!" The other three walked over to take a look. "Oh, what a beautiful tree," Críostóir commented. "That's perfect," agreed Róisín. "Alright, I'll chop it down." While Críostóir was chopping down the tree, Méav and Róisín noticed a teenage girl, sitting underneath one of the trees, all alone, and seemed to be quite disheartened. "Hannah, Sweetheart, stay with Grandpa while he cuts down the tree," said Róisín. "Okay, Grandma," said Hannah. Méav and Róisín ambled over, and sat beside her. "Hi," Méav greeted sympathetically. "What's your name?" "Laurel," the girl answered. "Are you alright?" "Yeah, I'm fine," Laurel sniffled. "You don't look fine," Róisín remarked. "Is there something wrong?" She continued to cry. "Why are you here, all alone?" Méav noticed a massive bruise on Laurel's face, and she noticed that her cheeks were severely swollen. "What happened?" "I ran away from home, okay?" Laurel sobbed. "My little sister and I ran away here." "Why?" Laurel seemed too embarrassed or afraid to explain why. "Did your parents hurt you?" asked Róisín. "My mom beats us," Laurel replied, trembling. "You don’t have to be afraid to talk to us, Laurel," Méav said sweetly. "Why does she beat you?" "Ever since my dad committed suicide, she keeps blaming it on me and Chelsea. She said we drove Dad into depression, and made him wanna kill himself, because we were 'ungrateful, spoiled bitches' to him." "Oh, Sweetheart." Méav put her arm around Laurel, and let her cry into a soft, warm sweater that she wore under her jacket. "It's okay." Róisín consoled Laurel as well. "Where's Chelsea, Darling?"


"She's hiding behind the tree," Laurel replied. "Chelsea, it's okay, Sweetie!" Méav called. "You can come out!" Chelsea slowly crawled out from behind the tree, and joined the threesome. Méav recognised Chelsea's face from somewhere. It was the same girl she saw after she and Aaliyah left the diner. "Hi, Chelsea," said Méav. "Hi," responded a frightened Chelsea. "I think I know you. I saw your mother, abusing you when I left the restaurant with my friend." "Wasn't she the one who tried to chase my mom?" asked Chelsea. "Yes. She was trying to save you." "She was nice." "She's a very sweet lady." "What're your names?" asked Laurel. "I'm Méav, and this is my mother, Róisín. "Who's that girl over there, with that man?" Chelsea enquired, pointing over to Hannah and Críostóir. "That's my father, Críostóir, and my daughter, Hannah," Méav replied. "Hannah's lucky to have a mom that doesn't hate her own kid," Laurel stated. "I don't know why some people are so violent and cruel," said Méav, "but I know how you two feel." "Her soon-to-be ex-husband beat her," Róisín chimed in. "I sent him the divorce papers, so Méav wouldn't have to ever see him again." "Where does he live?" asked Laurel. "He's in Illinois right now," said Méav. "Hopefully, he'll stay there," Róisín said dryly, "or end up in jail for the rest of his miserable life, for all I care." "I don't wanna sound like an 'ungrateful, spoiled bitch' when I say this, but I hope my mom goes to jail forever," said Laurel. "You don't sound at all ungrateful, Darling. I don't blame you for wishing that, because anyone who is malicious and violent towards others should not be allowed within a mile near any human being, let alone a child." "I wish you guys were my family." "Me, too," added Chelsea. "Aww, come here, you two." Méav cuddled the girls in her arms. "I will do anything and everything I can for you." "So will I," said Róisín. "And, so will I," added Críostóir, who had been listening for a while. "We will have your mother arrested." "And, if you still want this, and if Hannah would like it, I'll adopt both of you." "You mean, I getta have sisters?!" Hannah asked enthusiastically. "It looks like my precious, little Hannah would love it, but it's up to the both of you as well."


"Will you please, please, please be our mom?" Chelsea begged. "Pretty please?" She made a pouting, puppy dog face. "Aww, that was adorable!" Méav laughed. "If you both really want it, yes. Yes, I will be your mother." "Thank you so much, Méav," said Laurel, hugging Méav. "Thank you, Róisín and Críostóir, too." "You're very welcome, Dear," said Críostóir. "I can't wait to be your sister!" Hannah exclaimed. Laurel and Chelsea gave Hannah a hug. "Daddy, did you get the tree?" asked Méav. "Yes, I did, Love," Críostóir replied. "Now, I need help carrying it to the car." Everyone jumped up. Even Laurel and Chelsea were excited to help, because they never had a chance to shop for a tree with their mother.


Chapter 10
That night, Méav could not sleep. She remembered everything that Sean had said in the restaurant, the night before, and she felt so confused. She slowly rolled out of bed, and quietly wandered around the house, thinking to herself. She sat on the sofa, in the living room for a while, trying to figure out what to do. After two hours of blankness, she decided that she needed to get some sleep, and she would speak to Aaliyah about it, after rehearsal. She went back to bed, and managed to get some sleep. Meanwhile, Sean was also having trouble sleeping. It seemed as if both of them were supposed to toss and turn, on the same night, for a reason. He kept thinking about what he had said to Méav, and worrying that she would reject him. What if she didn't love him the way he loved her? He sat up in bed, and just stared, blankly into space, for a while. Then, he figured he would talk to his older brother, Will, the next day, after rehearsal, because he needed to get some sleep. So, he lay back down, and fell asleep. As planned, the very next day, Méav caught up with Aaliyah, after rehearsal, outside of the church, and Sean caught up with Will, inside of Will's car. "A couple nights ago, I finally told Méav how I felt about her," Sean said. "Sean told me that he loved me," Méav said. "I don't know how she took it. I don't know if she feels the same way as me. I know she's still married, and I told her I knew that. She said she was getting divorced, but I'm still scared she'll say no. I don't think I can handle losing her again." "I don't know what to say to him. I do have feelings for him. He knows that I'm still married to Jake. He made it clear he knew. I told him that I'm getting a divorce, but I've been wounded so badly for the past seven years, not just physically, but emotionally, too. I'm just so scared of love right now." "You did the right thing, telling her how you feel," said Will. "I always told you to follow your heart. Don't stress too much about being rejected. You never know what'll happen. She might say she feels the same way." "Honey, Sean would never hurt you, or break your heart, like Jake did," said Aaliyah. "If you really love him as much as I think you do, just follow your heart. You don't need to stress about getting hurt again. Just make the most of it, because you never know what'll happen. He could be the right guy for you." "Thanks, Will," said Sean. "You really helped me." "Thank you, Aaliyah," said Méav. "I think you really helped me decide what to do." "Hey, no problem, bro," said Will. "I'm always here for you." "Aww, no problem, girl," said Aaliyah. "I'm always here for you." "Look, Méav's over there," said Will, pointing to where Méav was standing. "Go talk to her." Sean got out of the car. "Look, he's getting out of his brother's car," said Aaliyah. "Go talk to him." "Okay," said Méav.


Méav and Sean approached each other. "Hi, Sean," greeted Méav. "Hey," Sean replied. "I need to talk to you," they said together. "Okay, what?" Sean enquired. "You first." "No, you." "Okay." Méav took a deep breath. "Well, I remember what we talked about at the restaurant, a couple nights ago. I guess I didn't answer you right away, because I had just had my heart shattered in a previous relationship. I had feelings for Jake at first, until the night he raped me, and even less when he kidnapped me. I guess I was terrified of being in a relationship again, because I didn't want to get my heart broken again. I know you would never hurt me. It was only my fear that was stopping me." "So… um… h-how do you feel about me?" Sean asked nervously. "I mean, do you feel the same way about me as I do about you?" Just as Méav was about to reply, once again, she was interrupted by a nasty cough. Only, this one seemed worse than the others. "Méav, you okay?" Méav couldn't answer. She continued coughing. Sean was becoming very worried and frightened. Méav coughed more and more, and Sean saw blood, dripping from her hands. "Oh, no." Suddenly, Méav turned her head the other direction, and began throwing up blood! "Oh, my God!" Sean shrieked. "Aaliyah!" Aaliyah suddenly turned around. "What is it?!" Then, she saw Méav, coughing and throwing up. "Oh, crap!" "Help!" Méav croaked while gagging. "We gotta get her to the hospital! You get her family! I'll stay here, and call 9-1-1!" Méav was rushed to the hospital by an ambulance, accompanied by her parents, her daughter, Aaliyah, Dylan, Sean, and Will. Hours later, the family was sitting around Méav, as she rested in a hospital bed. They were waiting for Méav's test results. "What is taking them so long?!" Róisín panicked. Aaliyah bent over Méav. "Méav, no matter what happens, and no matter what the doctor says, I'm not leaving your side. None of us are. We're sticking to you forever, like superglue. I promise, girl. You'll always be special to us, and we'll always love you. Just…" Tears poured out of her eyes. "Please don't leave us, Méav. Please? I'll give you both of my kidneys and my heart to save you if I have to. Just… please don't go." At that moment, Dr. Campbell walked in, fighting tears. "Méav?" he said gently. Méav awoke. "Are my tests finished?" she asked, very sleepy.


Dr. Campbell sighed. "The results aren't good… Méav." "What is it?" "I'm sorry to say… you have lung cancer." "Oh, no," Róisín stressed. "Have you ever smoked any tobacco products?" "No," said Méav, "but my ex-husband smokes a lot. When we were married, he purposely blew smoke in my face, and it would make me choke." "Well, his stupidity has made you very ill, I'm afraid." "I'm so sorry, Dr. Campbell." "No, you don't have to be sorry. If I ever catch up to him, I'll make him the sorry one." Everyone else laughed a little. "How bad is it?" asked Aaliyah. "Can you guys treat it, or get rid of it altogether?" "The tumour is malignant, and spreading very fast. I'm afraid we won't be able to get rid of it." "How long does she have?" Críostóir enquired. Dr. Campbell sighed sadly again. "About a month or two." Everyone's jaw dropped in shock and despair. "I'm… very sorry," Dr. Campbell said, holding back heavy tears. For a moment, there was nothing but silence in the room, until Méav spoke. "Dr. Campbell, I'm just going to rest here for a little while longer, and then, I'm going home. I want to spend the rest of my time with my family, and all the people dear to my heart." "You rest for as long as you need to, and when you decide to check out, please have a great Christmas." Dr. Campbell left the room, still fighting tears.


Chapter 11
Poor Hannah crawled into her mother's hospital bed, sank her head under Méav's arms, and wept. "Mommy!" Méav cuddled Hannah. "Aww, come here, Sweetie. Come here." She held her tightly, and stroked her hair. "Shh, Baby, it's alright. Shhh." "Come here, Hun," Aaliyah said sweetly, picking Hannah up, and holding her on her lap. Sean scooted his chair close to Méav, and leaned over her. "Méav?" He played with her angelic hair. Méav smiled ever so sweetly at Sean. "I love you, too, Sean." She sat up in bed, and wrapped her warm arms around him, sobbing. "I love you so much." She planted little, wet kisses all over his cheeks. "I've always loved you." "I'll always love you, Méav, and I won't hurt you like Jake did," Sean wept. "Honest-to-God, I promise, and I will be a good father to Hannah. I'll do anything for you, Méav. You have my word, straight from my heart." "Once my divorce is final, we can see each other." "How long will that take?" "Not very long, if Jake signs the papers." "He better, or I'll kick his—" He interrupted himself when he realised that Hannah was still in the room. "Oops, sorry, Hannah." Méav giggled. Hannah smiled at him. "It's okay." "Méav, you rest for now, and when you wake up, I'll take you home." "Oh, Sweetie." "We'll all go home with you, Méav," said Aaliyah, "if that's okay." "Of course, it's okay," Críostóir replied. "Absolutely," Méav added sweetly. "I want all of you around me during the time I have left." Everyone stood around Méav's bed, and looked at her with teary eyes. "I'm going to rest now." Méav closed her eyes, and fell asleep for a couple of hours. Then, her friends and family took her home, and they stayed with her, The next day, Méav attended choir rehearsal as usual, and was still able to sing just as beautifully as always. Róisín stood before the choir with deep sadness in her eyes. "Well, a few of you already know this, but most of you don't. Yesterday, our Méav was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cause of it was her ex-husband, smoking cigarettes, and purposely blowing the smoke in her face, a numerous amount of times. His stupidity has made her very sick, and… the doctor said she only has a month or two to live." She brushed away several tears. "She's been sick for a while, but never noticed it. The cancer is spreading rapidly, which is why her episode, yesterday, happened so suddenly, and also why the doctor cannot clear her. I'm hoping and praying that she will be around for our concert, and especially for Christmas. I think we should also add one more song to the program, just for her to sing for all of us." Everyone nodded in agreement.


One lady raised her hand to speak. "Yes, Lisa?" "I think Méav should sing Let There Be Peace on Earth, and I think it should be the finale piace for the entire concert." "I agree," said Aaliyah. "That's her theme song." "Will you sing it for us, Méav?" asked Sean. "I would be honoured," said Méav. "That would be perfect," said Róisín. "By the way, our costumes finally arrived, and they look very lovely. After rehearsal, we'll all go to the dressing rooms, and try them on."


Chapter 12
After rehearsal, Méav, Róisín, Hannah, and Críostóir decided to find Laurel's and Chelsea's mother. After searching in the phone book for about an hour, they finally found her, and they drove up to her house to talk to her. They marched right up to the front door, and rang the doorbell. She opened the door. "What do you want?" she snarled. "Nadine Forgrove?" Críostóir enquired. "Yeah?" "Are you the mother of Chelsea and Laurel Forgrove?" "Yeah. Why?" "We need to talk to you," said Róisín. Nadine sighed, annoyed. "Whatever. Come in." They followed Nadine inside the house, and into the living room. They all sat down on the sofas. "What do you want?" Nadine asked reluctantly. "The other day, we found Laurel and Chelsea at the Christmas tree shop, hiding underneath one of the trees, and crying," Róisín commented. "Yeah, and they're both grounded for two months for running away from home," said Nadine. "What's your point?" "There's a reason why your children ran away from home, Mrs. Forgrove." "Yeah. They're ungrateful, spoiled bitches." "No, they're not," Róisín snapped. "They are two children who have lost their father, and have an abusive, uncaring, selfish mother, blaming them for all of her problems!" "Excuse me?!" Nadine shouted. "You beat them! You shout at them! You mistreat them, and you don't seem to care about anybody but yourself! They are not the cause of your husband's death!" "And, how the hell would you know that?!" "Don't cuss at my grandma!" Hannah shouted, sobbing. "You're a mean lady!" "Oh, I am, huh?" Nadine bent over Hannah with an evil look on her face. "Well, let me tell you something, you little brat. Your grandmother is a bitch, and she hates you just as much as I do!" "No!" Hannah whined. "What do you think about that, little girl?" "No!" Hannah screamed. Críostóir jumped out of his seat, picked Hannah up, and scowled at Nadine. "Don't you dare talk to our granddaughter like that, ever!" he screamed in fury and rage. Just then, Laurel and Chelsea ran into the living room. "What's going on?" asked Laurel. "You two get back to your rooms, now!" "Mom, what the hell are you doing to these people?!" Laurel shouted.


Nadine slammed her feet on the ground, and jumped up from her seat. "Don't you ever use that kind of language, young lady! That is disrespectful!" She raised her fists, and took a strong swing to the poor girl's already bruised and swollen face, knocking her out. Watching the violence and hurtfulness, Méav was speechless, and a flood of tears shot out of her eyes. She hung her head, sobbed, and prayed. "Nadine Forgrove!" Críostóir screamed, grabbing Nadine's arm. "You keep your hands off of that child," he growled. Róisín knelt by an unconscious Laurel. "Darling, are you alright?" "Laurel, please wake up!" Chelsea wept. Méav also knelt by Laurel, and she pressed her ear against her mouth. "She's still breathing," she wept. "We have to get her to the hospital," Róisín whispered. Nadine looked at Méav, and saw her weeping. "What are you crying about, fat girl?" Críostóir threw his hand over Nadine's mouth. "Shut up." "My mommy's not fat, you mean witch!" Hannah wailed. "She's beautiful!" Róisín pulled out her cell phone, and dialled 9-1-1. "Hello? We have an unconscious child. Her mother knocked her out. She's thirteen." While Róisín spoke on the phone, Méav comforted Laurel. "Laurel, it's going to be alright. I won't leave you, Sweetheart," she sobbed. "You'll be alright. My family is good. You are in good hands, Baby." The ambulance and the police arrived in minutes to take Laurel to the hospital, and to arrest Nadine. Méav carried Laurel to the ambulance, and tucked her under the sheets, in the ambulance bed. She crawled into the bed, and wrapped her arm around Laurel's shoulder. Meanwhile, two police officers rushed into the house, and into Nadine's living room. They saw Críostóir, still holding onto her. "Uh, sir?" said one of the officers. Críostóir jumped, surprised. "Huh?" "You can let go of her now," the officer chuckled. "Oh." Críostóir let go of Nadine's arm, and removed his hand from her mouth. "We'll take it from here." Hannah and Chelsea laughed. "Nadine Forgrove, you're under arrest for child abuse," said the other police officer, as they both placed the handcuffs on Nadine, and dragged her out the door. Críostóir, Róisín, Chelsea, and Hannah ran to the ambulance, and climbed in. Minutes later, Laurel was in the hospital, and Dr. Campbell was running tests to make sure she would be alright. He came into the room with the results as she awoke. "Laurel?" Laurel looked around the room. "Where am I?" "You're in the hospital, Darling," said Róisín.


"Why?" "Your mother knocked you unconscious." Laurel gasped in fright, and sunk her face into her hands, panting. "Oh, my God." "Laurel, I have your results," said Dr. Campbell. "You're gonna be just fine." Laurel exhaled in relief. "We want you to stay overnight for observation, but everything should go smoothly. By tomorrow morning, you can go home." Laurel burst into tears. "I don't wanna go home again. I never wanna see my mom again." "Oh, Angel, come here," Meav said as she wrapped her arms around Laurel. "You won't ever have to see her again, Sweetheart." "She's been arrested," said Críostóir. "And, I'll be adopting you and Chelsea as soon as we can get the papers from the adoption agency, which should be very soon." "Thank God." Laurel cried tears of relief, and cuddled up in Méav's arms. "Thank you, Méav." Méav stroked Laurel's hair. "Shhh. It's okay, Baby. It's okay." She kissed Laurel's cheek, and everyone else gathered around Laurel to console her.


Chapter 13
Very late, that night, Méav was suddenly awoken by an intense nightmare. She sat up in bed, and could feel fear, rising and growing inside of her. This time, she could not fall asleep again. She was too afraid. In the morning, Méav picked up the phone, and dialled Sean's number. "Sean?" she trembled. "Yes, I'm fine, but… I really need to talk to you. Okay, thank you. I'll be there in twenty minutes. Thank you, Sweetie. Bye." She hung up the phone, and hid her face in her hands, crying and shaking. At Sean's house, Sean had made her a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. "Here you go, Méav," he said, placing the drink in her hands. "Thank you," said Méav. "Be careful. It's hot." Méav laughed a little through her tears and fright. Sean sat beside Méav, on the sofa, and put his arm around her. "Méav, what's wrong? You really worried me on the phone. Is everything okay?" "I'm scared, Sean," Méav sniffled. "Of what?" Méav didn't answer. "Is it Jake?" Méav nodded. "Is he here?" "I don't know. I'm afraid that he might find me, and hurt me again." "Méav, I'm so sorry." "Aside from my cancer, everything was going great for me. Then, last night, I had a horrible nightmare that… he came back, and he not only hurt me. He hurt my Hannah, too." "Did he kill her?" "He almost did, but I woke up before it happened." "Good." "Sean, I know he's out there, looking for me, and he won't rest, until he kills me. I'm already dying of cancer. I don't want to die sooner than I'm supposed to, and I don't want anything to happen to my Hannah. She's my world." Sean held Méav, and consoled her. "Méav, if he's out there, I'll help you fight for your life, and Hannah's. I won't let that creep lay a finger on either of you." "Thank you so much, Sean." Méav kissed his cheek. "Hey, I love you both so much. I won't allow anyone to hurt you. I forbid them to." Méav giggled. Sean trembled. "God, I love the way you laugh. It's like hearing an angel laugh." Méav giggled again. "It's so cute." Méav kept giggling as she snuggled up in Sean's arms.


Sean caressed Méav's face and hair. "Oh, Méav, I'm gonna miss that laugh of yours when… you know…" "When I die." "Y-yeah," Sean said nervously. "I didn't wanna say that word around you." "Oh, Sean, it's okay." Méav coughed. "You okay?" "Yes, Sweetie." "It just scares me to death when I hear you cough." "Aww, I know, Sweetheart." Méav held Sean tighter. Sean rested his head on Méav's. "I love your embrace." "I love holding you, and I love yours, too." "Hey, Méav?" "Hmm?" "I heard you're adopting two kids." "How did you know?" "Your mom told me. She said you guys saved two girls from their abusive mother, and you're adopting them." "Yes." "That's awesome." "It is. They're such sweetie-pies, and Hannah loves them." "Do you think they'll like me, too?" "They'll love you." "Why did their mom abuse them?" "Their father committed suicide, and since then, she's been blaming them for it." "Those poor kids. How did you meet them?" "Well, I saw their mother, abusing one of them when Aaliyah and I left the restaurant. Aaliyah tried to chase after her, but she got away. Then, when my family and I went shopping for a Christmas tree, I saw both of them, hiding under one of the trees." "They're so lucky that you found them." "I'm lucky to know them." "I can't wait to meet them. What are their names, and how old are they?" "Chelsea is five, and Laurel is thirteen." "Do they know you have cancer?" "My mother told them when Laurel was in the hospital." "Why was Laurel in the hospital?" "Her mother knocked her unconscious." "Oh, my God. Is she okay?" "The doctor said she is. He wanted her to stay overnight, just to make sure, but I think she's checking out today." "Did her stupid mother get her butt kicked?" Méav giggled. "Yes, my mother called the police, and they arrested her." "Good." Méav giggled again. "You're so cute." "No, you are," Sean flirted.


"No, you are." "No way. You're the cute one." "Aww!" Méav kissed Sean's forehead. "Sean, you make me feel so safe. When I'm with you, I know everything will be alright. I feel like… when I'm in your arms, Jake won't harm me, and I don't even feel sick. It's like you're a shield from anything that could ever put me in harm's way." "Méav, I'll always protect you when you need me to." "I'll do the same for you, Baby." "Méav, can I be honest with you?" "Of course," Méav giggled. "I wouldn't want you to lie to me." Sean chuckled. "If you decide to adopt a zillion kids, I'd still support you, and I know that if you love them, I'll definitely fall in love with them, too." "Aww." "You're an awesome person, Méav." "So are you, Sean." "Remember that hotel you wanted to make into a homeless shelter?" "Yes." "I paid $500 each for my parents' tickets to the concert." "Oh, Sean, you didn't." Méav was moved to tears. "I did." "Oh, Sean!" "I did it for you, and I did it for the homeless." "Sean, you're so wonderful! That means the world to me that you did that." "I wanted to."


Chapter 14
That afternoon, as soon as rehearsal finished, Méav went Christmas shopping at Manhattan Mall with the whole family, including her parents, Hannah, Aaliyah, Dylan, Sean, and of course, Chelsea and Laurel. "Can we go see Santa Claus, please?" Hannah asked politely. "Of course," said Méav. "Chelsea? Laurel? Do you two want to see Santa Claus?" "He already gave us what we wanted for Christmas," said Laurel. "Maybe you can thank him," Aaliyah suggested. Laurel smiled. "Cool. Okay." "Okay, I'll meet all of you at the food court when we're finished," Méav said to her family. "I'll go with you," said Sean. Críostóir, Róisín, Aaliyah, and Dylan finished shopping while Méav and Sean took the children to see Santa. They didn't have to stand in line for long. "You can go first," Hannah said to Chelsea and Laurel. Chelsea sat on Santa's lap while Laurel stood beside him. "Ho ho ho!" Santa laughed. "What would you like for Christmas?" "We already got what we wanted," said Laurel. "We just wanted to thank you. See, our mom abused us, and we wanted a mom that loved us." "I'm their new mother," said Méav. "I will be." "And, I'm gonna be their new sister," added Hannah. "The adoption agency is coming over tonight." "And, they'll make her our mommy," added Chelsea. "We wanted to say thank you to you, Santa." "You gave us what we really wanted for Christmas." "Ho ho ho! You're very welcome!" laughed Santa. Laurel and Chelsea hugged and kissed Santa. Then, it was Hannah's turn. "Okay, Hannah, go on," said Méav. Hannah jumped onto Santa's lap. "Hi, Santa Claus. I was a good girl this year." "Good for you, Hannah, and what would you like for Christmas?" "My mommy's sick. She's got cancer, and she's gonna die." "Ohh," Santa said sympathetically. "I don't want her to die. I wanna keep her forever and ever. Will you help me, please?" Méav brushed tears away. "We'll see what Santa can do for you, Hannah." "Thank you, Santa. Merry Christmas." "Hannah, stay there," said Méav, pulling her camera out of her purse. "I want to get a picture. I want all three of you girls in it." Chelsea climbed back on Santa's lap, next to Hannah, and Laurel stood beside him with her arm around him. "Smile!"


"Cheese!" they all said, smiling beautifully. Méav took the picture. "That was beautiful!" As they were about to leave, they saw a little boy hop on Santa's lap, and he was not accompanied by any parents. "Ho ho ho!" laughed Santa. "And, what would you like for Christmas, Nathan?" "How did you know my name?" asked Nathan. "Santa knows everyone's name. Where are your parents?" A sad expression crossed Nathan's face. "I don't have any. They died in the flood. I live in the street with the homeless people." "Oh, I'm so sorry." "Santa, may I have parents for Christmas? I know nobody can replace my mom and dad, but I'm just a kid, and I need parents. Will you please give me a mom and dad for Christmas, Santa?" "We'll see what Santa can do for you, Nathan." "Thanks, Santa. Merry Christmas." Santa hugged Nathan. "Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas to you, too, Nathan." This time, it wasn't just Méav who cried. Sean also wiped tears away. Nathan climbed down from Santa's lap, and as he was just about to leave, Méav followed. "Nathan?" she said gently. Nathan turned around. "Hi," he said shyly. "Hi." "Were you listening to me talk to Santa?" "Yes, and I am so sorry to hear about your parents." "Thanks. Do you think you can help me?" "I'll do my best." "What's your name?" "I'm Méav. How old are you?" "I'm nine." "Aww, that's such a young age to lose parents. I feel so awful for you." "You're really nice." "Awww, thank you." "Who are you guys?" Nathan asked the others. "I'm Sean. I'm Méav's boyfriend." "This is my daughter, Hannah," Méav said, gently tapping Hannah's shoulder, "and these two are Chelsea and Laurel." "Are they your kids, too?" asked Nathan. "They will be. I'm adopting them tonight." "Umm, will you adopt me?" Nathan asked nervously. "I know I just met you, and… stuff…" Méav acknowledged Sean to make sure he was alright with adopting another child. Sean smiled and nodded. "I will. What's your last name?" "Hunter." "I would love to get to know more about you, and then, I'll adopt you."


"I really like you." "Aww, I like you, too." "Hey, Nathan, do you like me?" Sean joked. The others laughed. "I'm just messin' with you," said Sean. Nathan laughed. "You're funny." "So, I guess you do like me?" Nathan kept laughing. "Yeah." Méav giggled. "The rest of my family is finishing up the shopping, and we need to go meet up with them. Would you like to come with us, and meet them?" "Okay." They all headed back to the food court, where they saw the rest of the family in McDonald's, ordering food. "Hi, everyone," Méav greeted. "Hi, Darling," Róisín replied. Then, she saw Nathan. "Hello there. What's your name?" "I'm Nathan." "We met him over where Santa Claus is," said Sean. "I was asking Santa for a mom and dad, because mine died in the flood." "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," said Críostóir. Nathan looked at Méav again. "Wait. You're Méav Ní Stóirín! You're the angel everyone's talking about!" Méav giggled, flattered. "Aww." "Now, I really wanna be your son!" "Hey, what about me?" Sean teased. Nathan laughed and smiled. "You mean, you would be my dad?" "Yep." "Cool!" "It's so nice to meet you, Nathan. I'm Róisín, Méav's mother, and this is my husband, Críostóir." "I'm Méav's best friend, Aaliyah." "I'm the best friend's boyfriend," said Dylan. "I'm Dylan." "Nice to meet you," Nathan said politely. "We're just about to order some food," said Aaliyah. "What do you want to eat, Nathan?" "I don't have any money," said Nathan. "It's okay, buddy," said Sean. "We'll buy for you." "Thank you." "No problem." "So, what would you like?" asked Méav. "Can I have a big, huge cheeseburger and a lot of fries, please? I'm really hungry." "I'm sure you are, Darling," said Róisín. "You got it, Nathan," said Sean. "Thank you," said Nathan.


Chapter 15
That night, the adoption of Nathan Hunter, and Chelsea and Laurel Forgrove, took place. The adoption agency visited Méav's home, and the papers were filled out and signed. It was finally made official. "Thanks, Mom," said Laurel. "Thank you, Mommy," said Chelsea. "Thank you, Mom," said Nathan. "You're very welcome, and God bless you all." Méav hugged all four of her children. Sean smirked. "Hey! What about me?" he joked. Everyone laughed again. "What am I, invisible?" "Thanks, Dad," the three said at the same time. Sean chuckled. "You're welcome." "Where will we all sleep?" asked Laurel. "Well, Nathan can sleep in my brother's room until he comes home from college," said Méav, "and then, we'll talk to him about it. Laurel and Chelsea can sleep in the guest room, where Hannah sleeps." "Yay!" Hannah jumped up and down. Méav giggled. "When Sean and I get married, we'll find a home of our own." "You're not married yet?" asked Nathan. "Not yet, but we will be." "Awesome! I've never been to a wedding before!" "Weddings are beautiful," said Róisín. "You'll love it." "If Méav is my mom, does that make you my grandparents?" Nathan asked Róisín and Críostóir. "Yes," said Róisín and Críostóir. "Cool!" Everyone laughed. "Nathan, there is… one thing you need to know about me," Méav said nervously. "What?" Sean knelt down. "Buddy… your mom… has cancer." For a moment, there was awkward silence. No one knew what to say to comfort Nathan, since he had already lost his birth parents. Then, Nathan spoke. "Would it help if I prayed for her?" "Yes," Sean said emotionally. "That would be a big help." "We'll all pray for her," said Laurel. Soon, it was time for bed. Méav sauntered into her parents' room to say good night. "Méav, Darling, come here," said Róisín. Méav sat on the edge of the bed, and smiled at her mother. "Your father and I just want you to know that we are very proud of you for what you've done for those children. We're very proud of everything you've done


to help others. I don't know what we did to deserve such a wonderful daughter, but we must've done something right." "Oh, Mum, you and Daddy always do things right." "We must be." Méav giggled. "We're so proud of you, Darling." "I hope it's not too much of a bother, having four children in the house." "No, Sweetie, not at all. Those children are wonderful, and they're a joy to have around." "So are you and Daddy." "And, so are you." "Good night, Mum." "Good night, Darling. I love you." "I love you, too." Méav and Róisín exchanged kisses. "Good night, Love!" Críostóir called from inside the bathroom. "Good night, Daddy!" Méav replied. "I love you!" "I love you, too!" As Méav left her parents' room, she saw her four children in the guest room, on their knees, holding hands. She stood outside the door, and listened as they said their prayers. "God, please bless Méav for saving us all," said Laurel. "Please bless her for saving Hannah from her abusive father, and for being a great mother to her, even though she was only seventeen when she had her. Please bless her for giving Nathan two parents who will always love him. Although they cannot replace his birth parents, there will always be room in Nathan's heart for them. Please bless her for saving us from our abusive mother, and for loving us unconditionally. And…" Tears poured out of Laurel's eyes. "God, please bless her for being so brave after everything she's been through, and everything she's going through." "God, please don't let us lose our mommy," added Hannah. "We love her too much for her to die." "If she dies, will you please bring her back to life?" added Nathan. "Amen," said Chelsea. "Amen," everyone said together. Their prayer moved Méav to tears once more. That night, she slept peacefully, knowing she was loved and cherished by four wonderful children, two loving parents, two true friends, one kind-hearted boyfriend, and one whole city of people who worshipped her at her feet.


Chapter 16
The next day, after rehearsal, Méav visited Nadine Forgrove in jail. "Hello, Nadine," Méav greeted. "Hey," Nadine replied gloomily. "What do you want?" "I just came to visit you, and to speak to you." "'Kay." "Nadine, I know it's hard to lose someone you love, but… why do you blame your daughters for your husband's suicide?" Nadine tried to fight her tears. "Because… I was too embarrassed to admit I blame myself." "Why do you blame yourself?" "Right before my husband's death, we were having some marital problems. I had this close friend from work that I spent a lot of time with. My husband was jealous, and he accused me of infidelity. He ordered me to stop seeing my friend, or else. I refused. I tried to explain to him that it was just a friendship, but he didn't believe me. Soon, I found out what 'or else' meant." She broke down, sobbing. "Right in front of me, and our children, he took his gun, and shot himself in the head." "Oh, Nadine, I'm so sorry." "I was angry with myself for not ending the friendship when he told me to, but I was too ashamed to admit it. I took it out on Laurel and Chelsea, and now, I hate myself for it." Méav stroked Nadine's shoulder. "Don't." "At least they're in better hands now. They're with you, and I know you're a better mother to them then I'll ever be. I'll never get the chance to make things right with them again. I won't get out of here for fifty years, because of my own stupidity! I hate myself for what I did!" Nadine hid her face in her hands, and bawled. "How can they ever forgive me?!" Méav consoled Nadine. "Nadine, I know you've hurt them deeply, but I think they'll forgive you in time." "I doubt that." "I don't. Nadine, I can see inside you, and inside, you are a kind, loving, beautiful person. You just need the courage to show it to the world, and I think you can. Don't be afraid to show your true inner beauty. "I would, but it's too late now. I'm gonna die before I get out." Little did Nadine know that a police officer heard the entire conversation. He approached the two. "Mrs. Forgrove?" he said. "Yeah," she replied. "We will be glad to drop the charges, and get rid of your arrest record, if you promise to perform community service." "That would be wonderful!" Méav agreed. "Nadine, we can work together." "You would really do that for me, even after the way I treated you and your family?" Nadine enquired. "My family is very loving and forgiving. I would be happy to help you."


"Okay." The guard unlocked the jail cell, and released Nadine. "Thank you," Nadine said to the guard, the officer, and Méav. "It's no problem at all," said Méav. "Oh, and by the way, I'm sorry I called you 'fat girl' the other day." Méav giggled. "It's okay." "I don't think you're fat. I think you're gorgeous." "Aww, I think you're very beautiful, too." At home, Méav explained to her parents, and her children, what she had done for Nadine. "Méav, that took a lot of courage, Darling," said Róisín. "You really got through to her," said Laurel. "I think she's a good person who's been traumatised, and had her heart shattered," said Méav. "She didn't know how to handle it. She poured her heart out to me when I spoke to her. She still loves both of you very much." "I don't wanna leave you, though," said Laurel. "Me, neither," added Chelsea. "You don't have to, my angels," Méav said sweetly. "I won't give you up. I was just thinking that you can slowly rebuild your relationship with your mother, but you can decide if you still want me to be your mother." "Okay," agreed Laurel. "Thanks, Mom." "Thank you, Mommy," said Chelsea. Méav smiled, and cuddled them both. "You're welcome. I love you." "We love you, too." "You said she has to perform community service?" Críostóir enquired. Méav nodded. "Yes." "Well, ask her if she can buy a ticket to our concert, and also, ask her if she'll help us with the after dinner." "I would be happy to."


Chapter 17
In the morning, the very next day, Méav visited the children's hospital again. The children were in the play room. "Hi, everyone." "Hi," the children greeted together. "The other day, I told you that I knew how you were feeling, because I put myself in your shoes. Well, today, I can tell you that… I have an even better idea of what you're all going through." "What do you mean?" asked Haylie. "A few days ago, I found out I have cancer." "How bad?" asked Daniel. "Very bad. It's advanced. My doctor said that the tumour is spreading so quickly that… he won't be able to get rid of it." "How long do you have?" Teresa asked sadly. "I have one to two months left." Every child hung their head, and cried. Méav sat down with them, and held her arms wide open. "Awww, come here, all of you sweet angels." The children snuggled up in Méav's warm arms. "Will we see you in heaven?" asked Nicolas. "Yes, you will," said Méav. "We're really gonna miss you, Méav," said Kaitlin. "I'll miss you all, too." "Will you visit us for Christmas?" asked Tyler. "Absolutely." "Merry Christmas, Méav," said Joseph. "Merry Christmas to you, too." Méav planted a sweet, soft kiss on every little cheek in the room, and comforted them with the warmest angel hugs. "Merry Christmas to all of you. I love each of you so much." As Méav left the hospital, in the distance, she saw Jake. She became very frightened, and jumped into her car before he could spot her. She tried to drive home in a different direction, so he would not find her. Unfortunately, she got very turned around. She began hyperventilating, frightened that Jake would find her before she could find her way home again. She soon felt very nauseous. She grabbed her cell phone from her purse, and called Aaliyah. "Hello?" she trembled. "Méav, are you okay?" Aaliyah worried. "I don't think so!" Méav cried, choked up. "What's wrong?!" "It's Jake. He's here." "What?!" "I saw him when I was leaving the hospital! I tried to go a different way home, so he wouldn't find me. Now, I'm lost, and I'm terrified that he'll find me!" "Okay, Méav, I can trace where your phone is, and I'll be there really soon. Promise." "Thank you," Méav sobbed.


Aaliyah found Méav in less than ten minutes. She got out of her car, and knocked on Méav's car window. Méav opened the window. "Aaliyah, thank goodness!" she sobbed, relieved. "Méav, Honey, it's okay," said Aaliyah. "I'm right here." Méav panted, trying to calm her nausea. "Are you okay?" "I feel sick." "Do you feel like you're gonna throw up?" "Yes." "Okay, Sweetie, it's probably stress." "And, cancer." "That, too. If you feel sick, you gotta get out of the car." "What if Jake finds me?" "If he even thinks of messin' with you, I swear, I'll karate chop his ass." "Okay." Méav hurried out of the car. Afterwards, Aaliyah led Méav home. "I'll walk you in, Hun," Aaliyah said, putting her arm around Méav, guiding her to the front door, and walked her in. "Róisín!" she called. Róisín strolled into the foyer. "Méav, Dear, are you alright?" "She had a really bad scare." "Jake's back!" Méav wept. "She saw him after she left the hospital, and she tried to hide from him by driving home in a different direction. She got lost, and really scared that he would find her, so she called me." "Oh, Méav." Róisín took Méav into her arms, and held her as she cried. "He scared her so bad; she got sick," said Aaliyah. "When I found her, she had to get out of the car." "Sweetheart, come sit down." Róisín and Aaliyah both wrapped their arms around Méav, and walked her into the living room. They all sat on the sofa together. "Méav, Honey, you're safe now," Aaliyah said comfortingly. "Okay? We're here, and as long as you have us around, you'll be fine. We won't let that loser touch you." As they spoke, Hannah sauntered in, and saw her mother in tears. "What's wrong with Mommy?" she worried. "She just got a really bad scare," Aaliyah replied. "It is Mean Daddy?" "Yes, Hannah," Méav sniffled. Hannah climbed on Méav's lap. "Did he find you?" "Hopefully not," said Róisín. "I hope not, too, because I don't wanna lose my mommy." "If I have anything to do with it, Honey, he won't be allowed within a zillion miles near your mom," Aaliyah snarled. "I'll kick his butt before I let him touch her, and I have friends that'll back me up on that." "They'll kick his butt, too?"


"You bet." "Who?" "Dylan and Sean." "Don't forget about me," said Róisín, "and of course, Críostóir." "That's a whole group of people, Sweetie, so you don't have anything to worry about," Aaliyah added. "Can I help, too?" Hannah asked. Aaliyah and Róisín laughed. "You think you can take him?" Aaliyah teased. "Duh!" Hannah laughed. Aaliyah chuckled. "Okay. Then, yes, you can help." "Nobody messes with my mommy!" Hannah growled. "Muahahahaha!" she cackled. The other three laughed.


Chapter 18
A few days later, the Ní Stóirín family was preparing for Aindréas' homecoming for Christmas vacation. It was even more exciting than usual, because nobody had told him about Méav's return home. They all wanted to surprise him. The Christmas tree was standing in the living room, but there were no lights or decorations on it yet. There were no Christmas decorations in the house at all, because the Ní Stóiríns wanted the whole family to decorate the house together. Róisín was watching for Aindréas to pull into the driveway. She finally saw him driving up the street! "He's here," she said. "Alright, he's pulling up. Méav, go hide, Dear." "Okay." Méav giggled, and skipped up the stairs. She hid inside of Aindréas' closet. "Where're you hiding?!" Críostóir called. "I'm in his closet, Daddy!" Méav giggled again. "Perfect!" "I'm gonna meet my uncle!" Hannah exclaimed, jumping up and down. Críostóir rushed out the door to assist Aindréas with his suitcases. "Aindréas!" Aindréas struggled to pull his largest suitcase out of the trunk. "Dad, a little help, please?" "Sure." "Thanks." Críostóir and Aindréas lifted the suitcase out together. "My goodness! What have you got in here? Bricks?" Aindréas laughed. "Christmas presents." Críostóir chuckled. "You must've spoiled us this year. Now, what's the other suitcase for?" "Clothes." "Can you get that one out?" "Yeah." Aindréas managed to lift his other suitcase out of the trunk, alone, with ease. They both wheeled the suitcases across the front lawn, and through the front door. "Mom!" Aindréas called. Róisín came flying into the foyer! "Aindréas!" "Mom!" Aindréas cried, throwing himself into her arms. "Oh, welcome home, Sweetheart!" Róisín laughed heartily. Róisín saw Aindréas' luggage. "Why do you have two suitcases?" "There's no way the Christmas presents would fit in one." "Oh, you spoiled us, didn't you?!" Róisín teased. "Yeah." "Which one has the presents inside?" "The enormous one!" Críostóir laugh.


"Okay, let's get this baby into the living room, so we can put them all under the tree," said Róisín, dragging the suitcase behind her. Aindréas and Críostóir followed. Aindréas noticed the four children on the sofa. "Hi," said Laurel, grinning. "Uh, hi," Aindréas replied, puzzled. "Who are you?" "I'm Laurel." "Uh, hi, Laurel. Are you guys… friends to Mom and Dad?" "It's a long story." "Oh." Aindréas chuckled. He looked around, and saw that the tree was not decorated. "Mom? What happened to the decorations?" "We were waiting for you to come home, Darling," Róisín replied, "so the whole family could put up the decorations together." Aindréas sighed sadly. "You can… go ahead and put them up if you want. It's not the same without Méav." "Okay, Darling." "I'm gonna go put my clothes away." "Alright," said Críostóir. As Aindréas left the room, Róisín and Críostóir laughed to themselves. "This is it," said Críostóir. "I can't wait to see the look on his face when he comes back down," Róisín chuckled. Aindréas lugged his suitcase of clothes to his room. He unzipped the suitcase, and laid all his clothes on the bed. He sorted through them, and stored his shirts, socks, and underwear in his dresser. He had already slid the hangers on his pairs of pants. He lifted them off the bed, grasping the hangers together, so he could hang them in his closet. He opened his closet door, and hung them up. Aindréas didn't see Méav, hiding behind all his clothes. She jumped out of the closet. "Surprise!" she squeaked. "Méav!" Aindréas cried. Méav threw her arms around Aindréas, giggling, and squeezed him. "Oh, my God, Méav! I can't believe it's you!" Aindréas nearly fell over, backwards, but Méav was holding him tightly enough to hinder that from happening. He burst into tears of joy. "Oh, my God! I missed you so much!" "Awwww, I missed you, too, Sweetie!" Méav planted little kisses all over Aindréas' face. "What happened to you? Why were you gone so long?" "I'll explain later. Let's go downstairs, and decorate the house together." "Okay." Méav wrapped her arm around Aindréas, and they both ran down the stairs, and into the living room together. "Was that a nice surprise?" said Róisín. "Ohh, yeah!" Aindréas laughed. "Have you met my children?" asked Méav. "Those are your kids?"


"Yes." "I met 'em." "Hannah is her birth child," said Críostóir. "She adopted the rest of us," said Laurel. "We'll explain it later." "Why don't we all explain while we decorate the house together?" Róisín suggested. "Okay," agreed Aindréas. The whole family pulled out all the boxes of decorations, and spent the rest of the day, decorating the house, inside and out. They all informed Aindréas of everything that happened since Méav's disappearance—her early pregnancy, the kidnapping, the abusive husband, her return, and every wonderful deed she did since her return. After the decorations were complete, the house sparkled and shined like a million Christmas lights in the night. The whole family snuggled in each other's arms, near their beautiful tree, and enjoyed glasses of heart-warming hot chocolate.


Chapter 19
It was only four days away from Christmas Eve, which was when the concert was supposed to take place. The whole choir went shopping together, to buy toys and gifts to give away at the after dinner, and delicious food to serve. Although Aindréas was not around for most of the rehearsals, he wished to perform in the concert with the choir. He knew all the songs, the notes, and the harmonies by heart. There was even one more solo part open, and Róisín and Críostóir knew it would fit his voice perfectly. The Ní Stóiríns worked as hard as possible, with the assistance of the rest of the choir, and of course, Nadine Forgrove, who had remained true to her promise to perform community service, to make amends for herself from her wrongdoing. Although they were all working very hard, they all had to agree that Méav was working the hardest to make this the most magical Christmas for all of Manhattan. As for the tickets, and the amount of money raised for the new homeless shelter, everyone in town purchased tickets to the show. They all paid high prices for the new shelter. If there was a single soul who could not afford to purchase a ticket, the whole choir gladly pitched in, and purchased the tickets for them. Méav decided to run to the store to purchase tons and tons of balloons for the after dinner. The store was in walking distance. However, it was very dark, so she did not see the face of the man who was following her. Before she reached the store, he grabbed her arm. She gasped and screeched in fright. "So, you thought you could get away from me, did you?" It was Jake! "Well, you thought wrong. You're just as stupid as always." "What do you want from me?" Méav trembled. "How dare you run away from me, Méav!" Jake shouted in rage. "You know you're not allowed to leave the house without asking me first!" "I am not a child, Jake! I am a grown woman! I will do as I please!" "I don't care how old you think you are, bitch! I say what you can and cannot do, and you cannot escape me again!" "I left you, because I was trying to protect Hannah from you! Everyday, she saw you beat me, put me down, and blow smoke in my face, and it frightened her to death! Jake, why are you so cruel to me?! What did I ever do to make you despise me so much?!" "The night of the dance, we had sex, and you ran away from me!" "I was only sixteen years old! I wasn't ready for sex! You raped me, and you frightened me away!" "I won't give up, until I get my revenge from that night!" "What are you trying to do to me?! Are you trying to kill me, because you're still angry with me for running away from you, seven years ago?! Well, you don't have to kill me. It's already being taken care of." "What the hell are you talking about?!"


"I have cancer, Jake! I have less than a month to live now, so you got everything you wanted! I'll be dead in a month, so you'll never have to see me again!" Méav burst into tears, and fell to her knees. "Are you happy now?" She hung her head, and wept a flood of tears. Coincidentally, Sean was driving down that same street, and he saw Méav, on her knees, in front of Jake, crying her heart out. "Damn it!" he growled, slamming his hand on the steering wheel. He pulled over, rushed out of the car, and ran to Méav. "Méav!" He knelt beside her, and held her. "He wants to kill me, Sean!" Méav sobbed, hyperventilating. "It's okay." Then, Sean stood up, and faced Jake. "You son-of-a-bitch!" He swung his fist into Jake's stomach, knocking him off his feet. "Oww!" Jake screamed as he fell on his behind. "What the hell was that for?!" "You were the one who raped, kidnapped, and tried to kill Méav! You were the bastard who ruined everyone's lives! You stole Méav from us, and when you did that, you took away something that meant everything to everyone in Manhattan, not to mention her family! How could you hurt us like that?! How could you hurt Méav?!" Jake panted angrily. "You touch her one more time, and I swear to God, I will make your life miserable, until the day you die!" "I'm not gonna kill her anymore!" Jake screamed. "She just told me she has cancer!" "Yeah?! And, you know why she has cancer?! Huh?!" "Why?!" "Because of you blowing smoke in her face for the past seven freakin' years, you idiot! You gave her cancer, you devil! You… you murderer! I will never forgive you for this!" "Are you in love with her?!" "Well, duh! Then, you came along, and you stole her! You don't even care about her! Unlike you, I don't want her to die!" Sean grabbed his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. "I'm callin' the cops." "Oh, and tell them what?! I took the love of your life away?!" Jake sneered. "Oh, yeah! That's a real crime!" He cackled and laughed, thinking he would get away with what he had done to Méav. Boy, Jake was wrong! In less than ten minutes, the police arrived, and they arrested him for rape, kidnap, assault, and attempted murder. They put him away for life, and also forced him to sign the divorce papers, which immediately ended his marriage to Méav. "He's gone," Sean sighed in relief. "Méav, he's gone! We can be together!" "Oh, Sean!" Méav flew into Sean's arms, sobbing and laughing with tears of joy and relief.


Chapter 20
It was finally Christmas Eve, and finally time for the choir concert! The auditorium of the community theatre was packed from wall-to-wall with people, excited for the beautiful performance ahead. The crowd cheered and applauded as Róisín walked on stage, and bowed. "Good evening, everyone. I'm Róisín Ní Stóirín, director of the Christian City Church Choir. Tonight, we have a special performance planned out for all of you. We have a full orchestra to accompany the choir, including piper, Tommy Martin, and my husband, Críostóir Ní Stóirín, on the piano." The audience applauded. "We've also included the fairy-like violinist, Máiréad Nesbitt, to perform with the choir." The audience applauded again. "And, of course, we have our very own choir of thirty-six vocalists with incredible talent, and extremely angelic voices. Each member of the choir has their own solo, so you will hear what the individual voices sound like. Two of our choir members are my son, Aindréas Ní Stóirín, and my daughter, Méav Ní Stóirín. You are in for a treat tonight. Enjoy the show." The audience cheered and applauded once more. Then, the show began. It was even more astounding than any audience member imagined it to be. They opened the show with a fantastic arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a violin solo for Máiréad. Each soloist had a beautiful voice. The orchestra played perfectly, and Máiréad was absolutely stunning on her Celtic fiddle. The concert consisted of spectacular Christmas songs, carols, and hymns. Every member of the audience could feel the Christmas spirit arousing inside their hearts. They closed off the choir's portion of the concert with a tearjerking arrangement of O Holy Night, featuring three angelic soloists, and of course, Máiréad's violin. However, that was not the end of the concert. "Wasn't that absolutely lovely?" Róisín asked the audience. "Yeah!" the audience cheered. "Well, we still have one more surprise in store for you before we head over to the church for our after party, but first, I am delighted to announce that, thanks to all your generous donations, we have raised over one million dollars for the new homeless shelter!" Everyone shot up from their seats, and cheered at the top of their lungs! "Thank you so much!" The cheering continued. "Alright, settle down, everyone!" Róisín laughed. The cheering died down. "Our final piace will be sung by my beautiful daughter, Méav, with her father, Críostóir, accompanying her on the piano, and Máiréad accompanying her on the violin. The whole choir decided that the song that fits her perfectly is Let There Be Peace on Earth, and I think that is the perfect fit for everything inside her heart. We came to America when she was only fifteen years old, and


immediately, she became Manhattan's Angel. Seven years ago, the boyfriend she was dating raped her, and when he found out that she was pregnant, he kidnapped her. For seven years, Méav had to raise her beautiful daughter, Hannah, with the help of an abusive, violent, and malicious man. Then, Hannah came to her, and expressed her fears of losing her mother, and losing her own life. That's when Méav had to build up all the courage she had to save her child. She waited until her husband felt asleep, and that's when she returned home again, with her precious Hannah. Since then, she put even more heart, soul, and love into all her work. She's not only Manhattan's Angel, but I believe she is Earth's Angel. She has done so much for everyone she met. She and her best friend got hold of the idea to turn an out-of-business, luxury hotel into a shelter for all the homeless families, and families on the verge of losing their homes. She worked very hard to make this world a better place, and she has done an outstanding job. She even took three children under her wing—two who were abused, and one with no parents, and she adopted them. She visited all the sick children in the hospital to cheer them up, and help them forget about their problems. One thing she did not tell anybody, except for her own parents, is that she made quite a generous donation to the Make a Wish Foundation, so those children could enjoy their lives, despite how ill they were, or how long they had left to live. Méav even saw the true inner beauty of a woman who committed a horrible crime. She got down to the root of that woman's anger, and reminded her that she was much better than she acted. I am happy to announce that this lady will be assisting us with the after party." The audience applauded. "Méav will perform her finale in just a few minutes, but first, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that her marriage to her abusive husband has ended, and he is now behind bars. More good news is that Méav's work has paid off, as you all know. However, there is bad news, and I'm sure many of you are already aware of this. Méav has cancer." Róisín's voice broke as she continued speaking. "She has lung cancer, because of her ex-husband constantly blowing tobacco smoke in her face. He didn't do it just two or three times. It was many times a day for seven years. Because of his foolishness, she is sick. Her cancer is spreading far too quickly for the doctors to save her. Now, she has less than a month left to live. It's such a shame, because if it wasn't for her ex-husband, she would've been perfectly healthy today." She wiped away a few tears. "This is hard on all of you. I understand. It's even harder on me, because she's my child. She's my little girl. Méav is the most beautiful person you will ever meet, and I'm not saying that, just because I'm her mother. I'm saying it, because it's the absolute truth. She is the sweetest, kindest, warmest person that I think any one of us has ever known. She has the cutest, sweetest, most contagious laugh. When she's happy, listen to her giggling. You will be smiling, too. Her smile is brighter than the sun, and when she smiles at you, you can actually feel the warmth from the sun, even when the skies are grey, or it's the middle of the night. She has the warmest, most healing and comforting embrace you will ever know of. When she wraps her warm arms around you, you will never want her to let go. You'll wish you had a superglue gun with you!"


The audience laughed. "She is the most beautiful angel you'll ever meet, both inside and out. When you look at her, you won't be able to take your eyes off of her. Then, when she looks at you, you'll automatically know that her insides are just as beautiful. She's often been mistaken for a real angel, but I don't think that's any mistake at all. She truly is a real, live angel." More tears poured from her eyes. "Letting her go will be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do, but for now, let's just enjoy the time we have left with her. So, please welcome our angel, Méav Ní Stóirín, singing Let There Be Peace on Earth." The audience cheered at the tops of their lungs when Méav stepped forward, and took a bow. She smiled ever so brightly at the crowd. "Hi, everyone. Well, I'm going to sing for you in a minute or two, but I just wanted to say something very important. I hope this message will stay with you forever. I'll never be gone. When I die, I won't leave you. My spirit will stay with you for an eternity. Every bit of warmth you feel will be from me. When you feel a loving embrace, but you cannot see anyone there, it'll be me, holding you, kissing your cheek, and protecting you from anything that could ever harm you." She began to cry. "Every time you hear the words 'I love you,' and you still cannot see anyone there, it'll be me, because I love all of you so much, as if you're my own family." She dried her tears, and swallowed. "I dedicate this song to you, from my heart. I hope that someday, we can all put aside our differences, stop hurting each other, forgive and forget each other's faults, overlook each other's flaws, join hearts, and become one big, loving, happy family of friends. It can happen if we are willing to put our hearts into it. Some are not willing, but together, we can pray that someday, they will. Let's all pray that someday, there will be peace on Earth." Then, Críostóir began to play the piano. Máiréad played her fairy fiddle, and Méav began to sing. Her sweet, angelic voice soared above every head in the room, and brought tears to every eye. Everyone could feel all the emotions she put into the song. They knew that she meant every word she sang. She truly desired peace on Earth. After she finished, the crowd stood up, waved their hands in the air, screamed, and cheered as loud as they possibly could as Méav bowed with Máiréad and her father. The cheering continued as the entire choir, every musician, and of course, Róisín, stepped forward, joined hands, and bowed together.


Chapter 21
After the concert, everyone headed on over to the church for the after dinner. Everything in the room was set up perfectly. On one side of the room was one long table with numerous gifts, wrapped and stacked neatly. One side of the table contained gifts for the children. The other side contained gifts for the adults. On the opposite side of the room was another long table, containing a large amount of food, drinks, and utensils. Between the two large tables were many other tables for the guests. Each table was covered in, either a red or a green table cloth, and in the centre of each table was a bouquet of red, green, and white balloons that Méav had purchased. In the ceiling were many beautiful streamers, and in every corner was a tall Christmas tree with colourful, sparkling lights. There was plenty of room for everyone. There were plenty of seats, gifts, and there was enough food to feed everyone three times. There was plenty of everything there! The choir immediately started serving dinner to the guests. "Can I get some mashed potatoes, please?" one woman asked. "Sure," said Aaliyah as she took a scoop of mashed potatoes, and placed them on the woman's plate. "There you go." "Thank you." "Can I get you a drink?" "Diet Coke, please?" "You got it." After everyone was served, Méav sat down with her children, parents, brother, best friends, and her boyfriend to enjoy the delicious dinner that she and the rest of the choir worked so hard on. "Did you make these French fries, Mommy?" asked Chelsea. "Yes, I did," Méav replied with a sweet smile. "Are they good?" "They're really, really, really yummy!" Chelsea picked up two fries, and stuck them in her mouth. "Mmm!" she sighed as she chewed. Méav giggled. "I'm glad you like them, Sweetheart." "You make the best food ever," said Laurel. "Awww." "You know how good the grandmas always make the food?" Méav nodded. "That's how good this is." "Awwwww, you're such a sweetheart!" "No, I think that's you," Laurel joked. The others laughed. "I couldn't agree more," Nathan commented. They all laughed again. Then, Méav glanced at Hannah, and noticed that her plate hadn't been touched. That worried her. "Hannah, you haven't eaten anything, Baby. Are you not feeling well?" "I can't eat," Hannah said sadly. "Why?"


Hannah didn't say a word. She just burst into tears, and ran off. "Hannah!" Méav called gently. "Excuse me for a moment," she said to her family. "I need to go talk to Hannah. I think I know why she's upset." She got up from her seat, and ran down the hallway, searching for Hannah. "Hannah! Baby, where are you?! Hannah!" She peaked inside the ladies' bathroom. "Hannah? Are you in here?" "Go away," a muffled voice said from the stall at the far end of the bathroom. Méav approached the stall, and knocked on the door. "Hannah, Sweetie, please come out." "No," Hannah sniffled. "I need to talk to you. Please come out." "I'm going to the bathroom." "Oh, Hannah—" Hannah began urinating. Méav felt a little embarrassed. "Oh. Well, please come out when you're finished." Hannah finished up in the bathroom, and came out of the stall, crying. Méav's heart sunk into her stomach when she saw the heartbreak in Hannah's eyes. "Oh, Hannah, come here." She picked Hannah up in her arms, held her close, and gently stroked her hair and backside. "Why do you have to die?" Méav sat down on a bench, and held Hannah on her lap. "I don't have all the answers yet, Baby, but I think one of them is that God might have big plans for me in heaven." "But, why do you have to die now?" "I'm not dying right this second." Hannah's weeping deepened. "Why are you leaving me?" "I'm not leaving you, Baby." "But, when you die, I'll never see you again." "Aww, Hannah, you will see me again." "No, I won't." "You will." "How?" "I'll be everywhere you turn. I'll be the bloom in every flower in the spring. I'll be the beautiful colours in the leaves of autumn. I'll be the bit of warmth you feel in the cold snow. I'll be the gentle, cool breeze of summer, softly blowing your hair around your face. I'll be the sweet smell in every rose you plant. I'll be the glistening and sparkling you see on the Christmas tree at Christmas time. On that perfect day, where the sun is bright, the sky is baby blue, the grass and trees are pure green, and the air is warm and sweet, that will be my work." "Is that a poem?" "Sort of." "Did you make it up?" "Yes, but I meant every word. I'll be with you in spirit, always. I'll watch over you from heaven. I'll be your guardian angel."


"I thought you already were an angel." "Awwwww, Hannah!" Méav giggled. "I'm really gonna miss you, Mommy." "Awww, I'll miss you, too, Baby." Méav kissed Hannah on each cheek. "I love you so much." "I love you, too, Mommy." "Now, let's get back out there, and enjoy the party." "Okay." "I'm sure you're hungry now, are you?" "Yep." "Come on." Méav lifted Hannah into her arms, and carried her as if she was carrying a baby. As soon as she stepped out of the bathroom, she bumped into Sean. "Oops, I'm sorry," she giggled. "It's okay," said Sean. "Were you listening to us?" Sean turned red with embarrassment. "Uhh…" Méav smiled and kissed his nose. "It's okay, Sweetheart." The three headed back to the party, and rejoined their family and friends at the dinner table. "Is everything alright?" asked Críostóir. "Yes, Daddy," said Méav. "We fixed everything." As they finished eating their meals, Nadine stopped by their table. "Méav, I just wanted to thank you," she said graciously. Méav smiled brightly. "For what?" "Everything. You saved me from completely destroying my life, and you helped me realise the mistakes I've made in the past. You looked inside me, and saw a better person. For that, I'm forever grateful." "Oh, Nadine, you're very welcome." "I also wanted to apologise to Laurel and Chelsea." She fixed her eyes on her two beautiful daughters. "Girls, I am so sorry, from the bottom of my heart, for everything I did and said to you, and for blaming you for things that I always knew, deep down, weren't your fault. I don't blame you for your father's death. I blame myself." "Nadine, don't blame yourself. Your husband's insecurities got the best of him, and drove him to take his own life, but if you believe in God, you can be certain that your husband is in his hands, in a better place. You'll always have him. He'll always watch over you." "I believe that now, because you taught me to." She turned to the girls again. "I don't know if you two will ever forgive me. I'll understand if you don't, but I want you to know that I do love you very much. You don't have to leave Méav, and come back home with me. I think you're in better hands now, but if you're willing, I would like to visit with you sometimes, to bond with you, and rebuild a relationship with you again. You don't have to answer me now, but—" "That would be great," Laurel replied. "I'd like that." "Me, too," agreed Chelsea. "Thank you so much!" Nadine exclaimed, relieved.


Just then, Aaliyah stood up from her seat, and banged her spoon against her glass to get everyone's attention. "Hey, guys?! Can I have your attention for a few minutes, please?!" Everyone was silent, and listened. "Isn't this the best Christmas party ever?!" "Yeah!" everyone shouted. "Well, none of this would've been possible without my best friend, Méav. The girl's a saint. Not only that, but she's been my best friend since we were in high school. Now, we're like sisters, and I feel like an aunt to her kids. Before you guys leave here tonight, don't forget to give her a big thank you for what she did for you." Everyone applauded as Méav stood up, and waved. She blew a kiss into the air. "I love you all!" Soon, it was time to give away the gifts. Críostóir walked into the room, dressed as Santa Claus. "Ho ho ho!" he laughed. He mastered Santa's jolly laugh quite well. "Hello, boys and girls!" "Hi, Santa!" all the children shouted to him. "I have toys for all the good boys and girls! Have you all been good boys and girls this year?" "Yeah!" "Then, come on up, and get your presents! There's plenty for everyone!" The children leaped out of their seats, and flew over to the table. The adults followed the children to the gift table, so they could pick up their gifts as well. "Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas, everybody!" "Merry Christmas, Santa!" said all the children. As Méav was about to reach for one of the gifts, Sean took hold of her arm. "Méav, you won't need any of those presents. I have a special one for you." He led Méav back to their table. "Méav?" "Yes?" Somewhere inside of her, Méav knew what Sean was about to say to her. Sean grabbed a small box out of his coat pocket. "Open it." Méav neatly removed the wrapping paper, and opened the box. Inside was a gorgeous ring with a sparkling shamrock. Tears poured from her eyes as she grasped the ring. "Oh, Sean! Oh, this is so beautiful! How could you ever afford this?" "I started saving when I first met you." "Sean!" Méav wept. "Méav?" "Yes?" "Will you marry me?" Méav slid the ring on her finger, and threw her arms around Sean, kissing him passionately. "Yes, Sean! Yes, I will marry you! Yes!"


Chapter 22
As everyone returned to their tables with their presents, Sean tapped his spoon against his glass. "Hey, guys!" he announced. "I have an announcement!" Once more, the whole room was quiet. "I just asked Méav to marry me, and she's accepted!" Everyone screamed, cheered, and whistled, long and loud! "So, I was thinking… why don't we go ahead and get married tonight, right here, in this church?!" Everyone cheered in agreement! Méav was a little confused. "What about a wedding dress?" "Honey, that choir dress you're wearing right now looks perfect," Aaliyah remarked. "And, our minister is here with us, so he can marry the two of you," Róisín chimed in. "Can I be your flower girl?" asked Hannah. "Of course," said Méav. "I'll be the ring barer," said Nathan, "even if I'm nine." "Chelsea and I can be your bride's maids," said Laurel. "Yes," agreed Méav, "and Aaliyah, I want you to be the maid of honour." "Aindréas, will you be my best man?" asked Sean. "Yep," Aindréas replied. "And, I'll be your groom's man," said Dylan. "What about the flowers, and the rings?" "We knew about this all along," said Róisín, "so we took care of it all." "Okay, then, let's get you guys married!" Aaliyah cheered. The whole crowd hurried into the chapel for the ceremony. Máiréad Nesbitt played The Wedding March on her violin as Méav gracefully drifted down the aisle on her father's arm. "Mommy, why is Santa Claus walking the bride down the aisle?" a little boy whispered in his mother's ear. The wedding was pure magic. Sean and Meav recited the sweetest vows. Méav slid a beautiful wedding ring on Sean's finger, and when it was time for the groom to kiss his bride, there was never a kiss as pure and sincere as the kiss they shared. After the wedding, everyone headed back to the party. Sean gazed into Méav's angel eyes. "We did it, Méav. We did it." Méav beamed. "We're finally married." "Welcome to the family, Sean," said Róisín, patting Sean's back. "Mrs. Ní Stóirín—" "Oh, you can call me Mom." "Mom? Where should Méav and I stay?" "You'll stay with us," said Críostóir. "Are you sure, Daddy?" asked Méav. "It's already pretty crowded."


"We don't mind, Darling," said Róisín. "So, can I sleep in the same bed as Méav," asked Sean, "or do I have to sleep somewhere else?" "Well, you're married, aren't you?" Críostóir pointed out. "Yeah." "Aren't married couples allowed to share a bed?" "I just wanted to ask." "You're very polite, Sean," said Róisín, "but you and Méav are married now. You're supposed to share a bed!" she laughed. As they were laughing and chatting, Méav began coughing uncontrollably. "Méav, are you alright?" asked a worried Sean. Méav could not answer through her coughing. She suddenly felt very nauseous and weak, and dashed to the bathroom. "Oh, no, Mommy!" Hannah cried. She collapsed to the floor, bawling her frighten, little heart out. "I gotta go see if Méav's okay," said Aaliyah. "I'll stay with Hannah," said Sean. Aaliyah ran to the bathroom as fast as she could, and stormed in. "Méav! You okay?!" She could hear Méav, gagging and vomiting. "Oh, crap!" She peaked inside of Méav's stall, and panicked when she saw the toilet full of blood. She did not have her cell phone with her, so she zoomed out of the bathroom. "Somebody, call 9-1-1!" she shrieked as she flew down the hall, and back to the party. "Call an ambulance!" she panicked. "Méav's throwing up! I saw it, and there was a lot of blood!"


Chapter 23
Méav was rushed to the hospital within minutes. She lay in the hospital bed, surrounded by her friends and family. As she slept, she had a dream. In her dream, she stood before a smiling God. "Hello, God," she greeted, shaking hands with him. "Hello, Méav." "What's my duty in heaven?" "Well, actually, it's not your time yet." "How can that be? I had cancer." "You weren't supposed to be ill." "I wasn't?" Méav was a bit puzzled. "No. Jake made you very ill by forcing tobacco smoke in your face, but you still have more good to do on Earth. Many more people need your help, including Jake Freestone." "So, I should go back?" "Yes. You will return to Earth, clear of cancer, and perform all of your good work. Then, when they're all complete, you will return to heaven. I created you for a reason. I created everyone for many good reasons, and many of them are not aware of them." "Oh, thank you, my beloved God." "No, Méav. Thank you for every good deed you have done for the people. It brings immeasurable joy to my heart." "You bring immeasurable joy to my heart." Méav kissed God's cheek. "Bless you." Méav awoke, and saw everyone around her. "Méav, are you okay?" Sean asked gently, bending over her. "Yes, I'm alright," Méav replied softly. "I had a wonderful dream. I was in heaven. It was wonderful." "Méav, don't talk about that now," said Sean. "We just wanna be with you for now." "That's not the whole dream. God sent me back to Earth." "Wow," said Chelsea. "Can he do that?" "I don't know, my sweet," said Méav, "but that dream meant something. Oh, it was a wonderful dream, and God was everything I imagined him to be." "What was he like?" asked Nathan. "He was magnificent—kind, gentle, loving, and wonderful." "That's cool, Mommy," said Hannah. "It was, my angel. It was." "We'll pray that it comes true," said Aaliyah. "Aww. I love you all so much." "We love you, too, Méav," said Nadine. "What did the doctor say? Will I go home for Christmas?" "Yes," answered Róisín. "We'll pick you up in the morning." "I think we should all spend Christmas day together," Méav giggled. "That would be awesome," said Dylan.


"You can all come to our house for Christmas," said Críostóir. "That would be wonderful," agreed Méav. "You just rest now, Sweetheart," said Róisín, patting and stroking Méav's head gently. As Méav slept in the hospital, that night, her friends and family prepared for a special Christmas with her. They spent the whole night, making and writing Christmas cards, and taping them to special gifts they had made for her— collages, albums, and beautiful drawings and paintings, all made from the heart. They stacked the gifts under the tree, neatly. In the morning, before they would bring Méav back home, they all cooked a delicious breakfast for the whole family—biscuits and gravy. They even baked a few batches of chocolate chip cookies, and one large cake, which the children decorated together. With the icing, they all drew a beautiful Christmas tree on top of the cake. Everything was fully prepared. All that was missing was Méav.


Chapter 24
While the rest of the family stayed behind to double check everything, Aaliyah drove to the hospital to bring Méav back home. They both arrived back within less than thirty minutes. As Méav walked through the front door, Hannah ran to her, and jumped in her arms. "Merry Christmas, Mommy!" she exclaimed. Méav giggled. "Merry Christmas, Hannah." "Come into the dining room. We made breakfast." Méav sniffed the air. "Ooh, it sure smells delicious." She and Aaliyah followed a happy Hannah into the dining room, where a rather large table was set. There were twelve plates of biscuits and gravy, twelve glasses of juice, twelve spoons, forks, and knives, wrapped in twelve cloth napkins, and one large bowl of biscuits and gravy, just in case anyone wanted more. "Mmm, this looks delicious," said Méav, sitting between Sean and Hannah. "Before we all eat," said Róisín, "let's say grace." "I'll say it," said Aaliyah. "Go ahead, Darling." "Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this food we are about to receive. Please bless those less fortunate than we, who have no food in front of them. We thank you for your many blessings, including Méav Ní Stóirín. For twenty-three years, she has given love, joy, peace, friendship, hope, and faith to all who met her. She has been our guardian angel, and when it comes time for her to leave this Earth, even as young as she is, her great work will live on in heaven, as well as here on Earth." Her voice began to break as she continued. "Please take care of her, Dear God. Amen." "Amen," everyone else said. "That was beautiful, Aaliyah," Dylan said, kissing Aaliyah. The family filled themselves with their warm breakfast, and with every bite they took, they thanked God for what he blessed them with—Beautiful Méav. After breakfast, the family gathered around the tree to open presents. "This one's for you, Dylan," Aaliyah said, handing Dylan a fairly large gift. "Thank you." Dylan ripped the paper off. It was a thick, empty photo album with a picture of the two of them on the front cover. "That's for all the memories we'll have in the future." Dylan beamed at Aaliyah. "This is awesome." He kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Babe." Róisín handed a gift to Hannah. Hannah removed the paper. It was a Barbie doll that looked very familiar to her. "She looks like Mommy." "Grandpa and I had that made for you, so even after your mother's death, you'll always have her." "Thank you."


"You're very welcome, Love," said Críostóir as he handed Róisín a present. Róisín's gift was a family portrait of all twelve of them. "Oh, thank you, Críostóir." She kissed him. Chelsea's gift was a recordable story book, which Méav had already recorded for her and the rest of the children. Nathan's gift was a sweatshirt with Méav's picture on it, and Laurel's gift was a framed photograph of Méav. Nadine's gift was a gold necklace with a heart pendent with the word "Angel" engraved on it. Críostóir's gift was a crochet blanket, which Róisín made for him. Aaliyah's gift was a homemade CD of love songs, and Sean's gift was a framed photograph of him and Méav at their wedding. Of course, there were many more gifts exchanged. "Méav, we all made special presents for you, girl," said Aaliyah. Nadine's gift to Méav was a handwritten letter. "Dear Méav, before I met you, I was an angry woman, taking it all out on the two most wonderful blessings from God. I even took it out on your child, your family, and you, and for that, I'm truly sorry. Since I met you, I've realised my mistakes, and I've realised that I can do much better than I've been doing. I can be a better person. You saw inside of me. You saw my true colours, and you gave me the courage to show them to the world. I don't think I'll ever be as wonderful of a person as you, but I'd sure love to try. You taught me to give love to everyone I meet. I will keep this promise I made to you and the police, to keep performing community service, because it makes me feel so warm inside, knowing that I'm helping to make this world a better place. I enjoy doing the community service, and plan to continue doing it for the rest of my life, thanks to you. You've been performing community service your whole life, and were never asked to. Even when a police officer tells me I'm finished, I'll keep doing it, because I love it. Thank you for making me a better person, and I know you'll be a much better mother to my children than I'll ever be. When you have to go, I know that God will take care of you. Merry Christmas, Méav. With love from, Nadine Forgrove." Críostóir and Róisín gave Méav a video recording of the choir concert. Aaliyah made a friendship bracelet with the word "Peace" engraved on it. Sean's gift to her was a framed photograph of the two of the two of them when they were fifteen years old. In the picture, they were singing in the high school talent show. Dylan's gift to her was the beautiful novel, A Walk to Remember, which was Méav's favourite book. Aindréas' gift to her was a framed certificate, which he made himself. Written on the certificate was "Méav Ní Stóirín—World's Best Sister." The final gift was from Laurel, Chelsea, Nathan, and Hannah. Together, they crafted a large Christmas card. On the front was a magnificent picture of Méav in her choir dress. Inside was a short message from the children, written in large handwriting, with a red glitter glue stick. "Mom, you're the best ever! We love you so much. Please don't be gone for long. Merry Christmas! Love Hannah, Nathan, Chelsea, and Laurel."


All the precious gifts brought tears of joy to Méav's eyes. "Awwww, you all are wonderful!" she wept. "I love each of your gifts with all my heart. Now, I have a gift for all of you." She bent over, and picked up a stack of presents from under the tree. She handed them out to everyone. They all opened the gifts. They were all copies of the same CD. "I bet none of you knew that I recorded a CD in my room, did you?" Méav giggled. "I chose eighteen of my favourite songs, and sang my own versions of them. They all come straight from my heart. Even when I'm gone, you'll still have a part of me with you. Every night, when you fall asleep, play the CD, and it'll feel as if I'm next to your bed, kissing you good night, and singing to you. I love all of you so much, and I'll miss you deeply." "Thanks, Méav," Aaliyah said quietly. "Aww, come here, all of you!" Méav held her arms open, as her family ran to her for a group hug. She kissed each of them on the forehead. "These kisses will stay with all of you forever."


Chapter 25
During the afternoon, Méav paid a visit to the sick children in the hospital. As usual, they were in the play room, but this time, with their families. However, there was one child missing. "Hi, everyone," Méav greeted sweetly. "Merry Christmas." "Merry Christmas, Méav," the children and their families said in unison. "Méav? What's in that big bag?" asked Haylie. Méav was carrying a large, red gift bag, containing more copies of her CD. "I brought gifts for all of you, and your families." She handed out the CDs to every family in the room. "I recorded my own versions of eighteen of my favourite songs, because after I go, I want all of you to have a part of me with you. I love each of you very much, and I'll miss you more than you'll ever know." "Thank you, Méav," said Nicolas. "We'll really miss you, too," said Kaitlin. Méav noticed that one child was missing. "By the way, where's Teresa?" "She died," said a very sad Haylie. "Oh, no," Méav replied sympathetically. "I'm so sorry. When did she die?" "Last night." "Last night? I thought she was at the church party." "She died in her sleep," said Daniel. "I'm so sorry for your loss, but she's in a better place with God." "And, she's not sick anymore?" added Kaitlin. "She's not sick at all. God healed her of any pain she was feeling." "Is she watching us?" asked Haylie. "Yes, she is. She's watching over all of you, and many more people she loved dearly. If you believe, you can feel her spirit around you. It's not something you can feel with your hands. You have to feel it in your heart." "I feel it," said Kristen. "Me, too," said Daniel. Their families were completely silent, because they were in awe, watching Méav with the children. "Méav?" "Yes, Nicolas?" "I'm not scared of dying anymore." "Me, neither," said Haylie. "That's good," said Méav. "Are you scared?" asked Daniel. Méav paused, and smiled. "No. I'm not anymore, because I know God will take care of me. I don't want any of you to lose hope. Keep fighting your illnesses as hard as you can." "We will, Méav," said Kristen. "Will you sing one more song to us, please?" asked Nicolas. "Absolutely, but only if you sing it with me." "Okay." "Do you all know Deck the Halls?"


"Yeah!" the children cheered. "Okay. Let's all sing together." The children and their families joined Méav in singing Deck the Halls, and for those few moments, all they felt was the joy of Christmas. There was no illness, no heartbreak, and no fear at all. "Merry Christmas, my precious angels," said Méav, kissing each child on the forehead, and shaking hands with their families. "I love you." When Méav left the hospital, she visited Jake in prison. She approached his cell. "Jake?" Jake looked up at Méav. "What are you doing here?" "I came to wish you a Merry Christmas." "Yeah, some Christmas." "Jake, I just want to ask you a question. It's very important, so please be honest with me." "What?" "Why do you treat people so cruelly? My running off can't be the only reason." Jake sighed. "That's how my dad was." "Was he abusive to you?" "Yeah. When I was eight, my mom ran off with some guy, and my dad started beatin' the crap out of me and my sister." "You have a sister?" "Not anymore. He raped and killed her, the son-of-a-bitch." "Jake, I'm so sorry." "When I was a kid, I swore I would never be like him, but I grew up just like him… only worse." "Jake, I don't think you're really a horrible person." "You don't?" "No." "Even after the hell I put you and Hannah through?" "You're just angry with your father for what he did to you and your sister, and you're angry with your mother for walking out on the family when you needed her. You've been trying to release that anger, but you've been going about it the wrong way. You've been taking all of it out on other people. You never gave anyone else a chance to love you, because you were afraid they would abandon you, like your parents did. You pushed them away first, so you wouldn't have to deal with the possible pain of maybe losing someone else." Jake paused, and thought about what Méav said. "You're right." "But, Jake, you missed out on what could've been wonderful. You pushed away so many possible friendships and relationships, and now, you feel alone again." "I am alone." "You are not alone. You still have me." Jake scoffed. "Come on. You're married to someone else." "You still have me as a friend, Jake. You will always have my friendship." "Are you seriously forgiving me for everything I put you through?"


"I already have. Yes, I was terrified of you, but that doesn't mean I held any grudge against you. I forgave you a long time ago, Jake, but I left to protect Hannah. The night we left, she asked me why you treated me the way you did. She told me how scared she was that you would kill me, and eventually kill her, too. I wanted to protect her, but that doesn't mean I didn't forgive you." "When did you forgive me?" "I forgave you the night you raped me. One wonderful thing came out of that night." "Hannah?" "Yes. If not for you, I wouldn't have her." "Wow." "I do not praise your crimes, but I forgive them. I forgive you, because I believe you're a much better person than you appear." Jake burst into tears. "I'm so sorry, Méav. I didn't mean to hurt you." "Oh, come here." Méav hugged Jake, and consoled him. "It's alright now. Jake, I forgive you, and as a friend, I love you so much. I do." "I love you, too, Méav." As they spoke, they heard music playing. It was Méav's CD. "What's that?" Jake asked. "I recorded a CD for everyone, and I asked the guards to play it for you." Jake listened to it for a few seconds. Méav's angelic voice brought even more tears to his eyes. "It's very beautiful." "Thank you." Suddenly, Méav was interrupted by another cough. "You okay?" Méav stopped coughing after a few seconds. "Yes," she replied. "How's the cancer?" "Not good. I think I'm going to die tonight." Jake chuckled, thinking Méav was joking. Then, he stopped, and suddenly felt very guilty. "Oh… you… you were serious? You really think you're gonna die tonight?" "I don't know," said Méav. "I think so." "I'm really sorry. I thought you were joking for a second." Méav giggled. "It's alright." "I hope you don't die." "Even if I do, I'm not afraid anymore." "You're brave." "I'll be in heaven, and I'll watch over you, Jake." "Really?" "Absolutely. You deserve a guardian angel." "Thanks, Méav." "Merry Christmas, Jake." Méav hugged him one more time, and kissed his nose. "May God bless you forever." "You, too. Merry Christmas." That evening, after a hearty dinner, the family gathered around the tree, held hands, and sang Christmas carols together. Then, they all snuggled on the floor with a bowl of popcorn in each of their laps, a cup of hot chocolate by their


sides, and a photo album opened, on the ground, in the middle of the circle. They were all going down Memory Lane, even with the new pictures they took together. Aaliyah laughed, pointing to a picture of her and Méav in the snow. "Look. That's the snowball fight Méav and I had a few years ago. Méav giggled. "That was fun." "How cute," Sean flirted. Hannah and Chelsea laughed loudly when they looked at the picture. "Oh, my gosh!" Aindréas cackled, pointing to a picture below. "That's me! I look weird!" "You look adorable," said Méav. They were looking at a picture of Aindréas when he was twelve years old. He and his friends were having a belching contest, and in the picture, he was releasing a loud one. "You were the champion belcher!" Críostóir laughed. "Yeah, I won that one!" Aindréas laughed. "I thought it was rude to burp," said Hannah. "It is," said Méav. "You should never do it in public, or at the dinner table, but when you're alone with a few friends who don't mind it, it's alright." "Uncle Aindréas, will you please burp really loud?" asked Hannah. "Hold on." Aindréas swallowed air, and released a wall-shaking sound! The whole family burst out in long and loud laughter. Then, Róisín turned the pages of the album, until she came across a picture that meant the world to her. "Oh, Méav, look at you." It was a picture of Méav on the day she was born. Méav gazed at the picture. "Awww, Mum, you and Daddy look so happy." "We were," said Críostóir. "Do I really make you that happy?" "Very much so." "You still make us very happy," said Róisín. "You're the best sister I could ever ask for," added an emotional Aindréas. "I'm glad you were born." "Oh, Aindréas, come here." Méav wrapped her arm around him. "I'm so grateful that you were born, too. You're an amazing brother." She kissed his cheek. Then, she turned to the whole family. "You're all brilliant, and I love you more with each passing second." "This was the best Christmas ever!" Nathan exclaimed. "I totally agree," said Aaliyah. "I do, too," added Méav. "I've never had such a warm and loving Christmas in my life, and I missed celebrating with my family. I am so grateful that I got to spend one more with you." That night, Méav lay in bed, very ill, and very tired, surrounded by her family. "I want these last few moments to tell each of you something important," she said. "Mummy and Daddy, you were the most wonderful parents I could ever ask for. You raised me, and made me the person I am today. You always believed in me, and you were always there for me."


"We'll still be here for you, Méav," said Críostóir, "even after you die." "You're our little girl," Róisín sniffled. Méav continued. "Aindréas, you are the most wonderful brother I could ever want. You and I never fought. We never saw the point of fighting. I was only a year old when you were born. I may not remember much about that year, but I do remember being very happy when you were born. I still am, and I always will be." "I love you so much, Méav," Aindréas sobbed. "Aaliyah and Dylan, you've been my best friends from the first day I arrived in America. You've always been loyal to me. You're like a brother and sister to me." "So, you have two brothers," Dylan joked. Méav giggled. "Yes. Oh, Dylan, you and Aaliyah will always be special to me, and you'll always be my best friends." "We made a promise a long time ago," said Aaliyah. "When we first became friends, we promised we would be friends forever, no matter what." "Even if one of us dies," added Dylan, "we'll still be friends forever." "Absolutely," agreed Méav. "Sean, for over eight years, you've had strong feelings of love for me. What I didn't realise was how much in love I've always been with you, until you told me how you felt. I've always been deeply in love with you, Sean, and even from heaven, I'll still love you. But… I don't want you to spend your life in mourning, and worrying about cheating on me. I want you to be happy. If you ever fall in love with another woman, it's alright with me. You will have my blessing." "I don't think I'll ever love anyone else the way I loved you," Sean sniffled. "You will someday. Nadine, we had a rough patch at the beginning." Nadine nodded and chuckled. "Still, we developed a very strong and magnificent friendship. You showed the world who you really are, and I'm so proud of you for that. You have a beautiful, kind, loving heart. Don't ever hide that again, because it's too wonderful. You've become a part of this family, and you'll always be a part of it, no matter what happens. We'll always love you." Nadine wiped away tears. "My beautiful children, you're my world. I don't know what I would do without you. You're all very precious to me, and I love you equally. You'll always be my angels, and I'll watch over you in heaven. I'll be your guardian angel, and I'll protect you from harm." "Mommy, please don't go," Hannah wept. "I have to, Baby," Méav replied, beginning to weep. "I don't want to leave you, but I have to." Hannah crawled into bed with Méav, and cried her heart out. Méav held Hannah tightly. "Shhh. It'll be alright, Baby. Remember what I told you. Even when I go, I'm still with you. I'm everywhere you turn." The other three children crawled into bed with Méav. "Aww, come here, my angels." Méav held her children close to her beating heart.


"Will you sing to us one more time?" asked Chelsea. "Please?" "Of course." Méav sang her family one last lullaby, and during the song, she hugged and kissed each of them sweetly. When she finished, she spoke her last words. "I love you all, my precious angels." Then, she smiled sweetly, and closed her eyes.


Chapter 26
In the morning, the family sorted through Méav's room for her belongings, looking for special items to bring to the funeral to share with all of Méav's friends. In the midst of their search, they found a thick book. "What's this?" Sean wondered. Aindréas opened the book, and flipped through the pages. "It's Méav's diary," he said. Every page was filled with Méav's thoughts, hopes, dreams, feelings, and everything inside her heart. Her whole life was written down in that thick journal, including the seven years she spent, married to Jake. Aindréas skimmed the entries, and tears formed in his eyes. "This is beautiful." "Let me see," said Róisín. Aindréas handed the journal to Róisín. Róisín read a few of Méav's entries, and she had to agree that Méav wrote a beautiful biography. The journal contained her whole life story, up until her dying day. "I have a great idea," said Róisín. "I think we should get her journal published, and send her CD to a record company. The world needs to see her whole life." "What about all that expensive copyright stuff you have to do?" Aaliyah worried. "How can you afford it?" "Méav is worth it," said Críostóir. The whole family chipped in to pay for everything, and they sent off Méav's journal, along with her CD. The companies knew who she was, and immediately accepted. Méav's book and CD were both sold in stores before New Year's Eve. Her album, Songs of an Angel, was ranked Number One in the charts, and her book landed on the Best Seller list. Her work touched every soul who purchased it. She was even more of an inspiration. It saddened the family that Méav was not around to experience this, but they knew that her love and joy would touch many hearts, and make a huge difference in many lives. The day before New Year's Eve, the Ní Stóiríns received a bouquet of roses with a letter from the children's hospital in which Méav often visited. "Dear Ní Stóirín Family, we are so sorry for your loss, but we are very pleased with Méav's new CD. We are also pleased to inform you that we play her CD for our patients, and it always seems to make them feel better. We have reason to believe that her beautiful singing has something to do with the healing of many of our patients' illnesses. Since we cannot thank Méav in person anymore, we wanted to thank her family for bringing her into this world. We offer our sincere condolences. God speed, and Happy New Year."


Chapter 27
On New Year's Eve, all of Manhattan gathered in Central Park for the New Year's Eve party. It wasn't terribly cold, but everyone still covered up. At the party, the deejay played Méav's CD, along with a slideshow of thousands of her pictures on eight big screen televisions. "Happy New Year," the security guard greeted the Ní Stóiríns, and their friends, as they all passed through the gates. They all grabbed a large table, and settled in. "It's cold, Daddy," Hannah complained. "I brought blankets, Pumpkin," said Sean, wrapping a soft, warm blanket around Hannah. "There you go." "Thank you, Daddy." Just then, the waiter stopped at their table, and served them all glasses of hot water and lemon. "There you go," he said. "These'll keep you nice and warm." "Thank you, sir," said Críostóir. "Hey, wait a minute." The waiter paused. "You're Méav Ní Stóirín's parents, aren't you?" "Yes," Róisín acknowledged. "I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. It was devastating for all of us." "Thank you." "Well, the buffet opens in about five minutes if you're hungry." "Ohh, yeah!" Laurel laughed. "I'm starving." The waiter laughed. "Well, tonight, we got all the good stuff—hamburgers, fries, hot dogs—" "Oh, stop!" Róisín laughed. "You're tempting me!" The whole family and the waiter laughed. "It won't be long, little lady," said the waiter with a bright grin. "Can I get y'all some drinks? I mean, besides the water." "I'd like a coffee, please," said Róisín. "Regular or decaf?" "Regular, please. I need something to keep me awake." The waiter chuckled. "I'll have the same," said Críostóir. "Hot chocolate, please," said Sean. The others agreed. "Something warm," Nadine chuckled. "Alright," said the waiter. "I'll be right back." After dinner, all the couples danced to one of the songs on Méav's CD— her beautiful rendition of When You Believe, originally sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Well, every couple, of course, except Sean, who had no love to dance with. "Aren't you gonna get up, and dance, Daddy?" asked Laurel. "No," Sean sighed. "I don't have anyone to dance with." "I'll dance with you."


"Okay." "Come on." Laurel took her father's hand, and led him closer to the music. "May I have this dance?" asked Sean in a British accent. "Yes," Laurel answered, also in a British accent. Together, they shared a warm father-daughter dance. "You know, this is the song I wanted to sing with Méav," said Sean. "You guys would've done this song really great together," said Laurel. "Yeah, but she's gone." "No, she's never gone. Remember what she told us?" "She's everywhere we turn." "Literally," Laurel chuckled, looking at all the screens. "Those are some beautiful pictures, huh?" "Yeah." The song ended, and Sean and Laurel ended their father-daughter dance with a hug. "I love you, Daddy," Laurel cried happily. "I love you, too, Pumpkin," Sean sniffled. Sooner than anyone thought, it was 11:55, and very close to the New Year. "Whassup, ma' homies?!" the deejay boomed! The crowd cheered and applauded. "Alright, y'all! It's gettin' close!" The crowd kept cheering, applauding, and bouncing around. "It's gettin' close to midnight, y'all! We'll be countin' down to the New Year soon! Yeah!" The deejay jumped up and down, and barked. The crowd laughed. "Y'all grab the ones you love, and hold 'em close!" Róisín and Críostóir held each other. Dylan and Aaliyah joined hands, and one of the ladies from the choir approached Aindréas. "Hey," she greeted. "Hey, Luci," Aindréas replied. "You were really good at the concert." Luci chuckled nervously. "You were, too, and so was your sister." "Yeah." "I'm really sorry she died." "Me, too," Aindréas sighed. "I miss her like crazy." "Me, too." "Hey, um, Luci?" "Yeah?" "I was wondering…" Aindréas took a deep breath. "Um… will you go out with me?" "Are you serious?!" Luci enquired excitedly. "Yeah, if… you want." "Yeah! I'd love to!" "Really?!" "I actually came over here to ask you out." "Wow!" "I still have a big crush on you," Luci giggled.


Aindréas blushed. "Aww, you're blushing," Luci flirted. "That's so sexy in a guy." Aindréas turned even redder. "You think shyness is sexy?" Luci giggled. "Yeah." "When you said you still have a crush on me, you mean—" "I had a major crush on you in high school!" Luci laughed. "So did I," Aindréas admitted. "Not on myself," he joked. Luci laughed. "That would've been weird." "Yeah." "Weirdness is cute, though." "Wow." Aindréas lost his breath for a moment as he looked into Luci's eyes. "What?" "You just… remind me of someone." "Who?" Aindréas paused. "Méav." "Aww, thanks." "You're a lot like her." "I am?" "Yeah. You're sweet, kind, and you sing like an angel." Luci blushed. "Oh, stop," she giggled. "You're embarrassing me." "You even laugh a little like her." "Wow." "But… I don't just like you, because you remind me of her. I like you for who you are, too." "I like you, too, Aindréas Ní Stóirín." Dylan wrapped a blanket around Aaliyah, and snuggled her in his arms. "Ohhh, Dylan, this feels so good," Aaliyah moaned. "Aaliyah?" "Hmm?" "Will you marry me?" Aaliyah couldn't speak for a moment, because she fell into shock. Then, she managed to catch her breath. "Yes!" she cried. "Alright, y'all!" the deejay announced. "One minute 'til the New Year! Let's count down!" The crowd counted backwards from sixty, at the tops of their lungs, as fireworks began to sparkle in the clear, dark sky. Hannah blew into her horn. "No," Sean chuckled. "Not yet, Sweetie." "Oh," said Hannah. "Okay, Daddy." "When everyone shouts 'Happy New Year,' then, blow it really loud." "Thirty seconds, y'all!" the deejay shouted. "Keep that horn in your hand," Sean said to Hannah. "Okay," said Hannah. "I'm cold," said Chelsea, grabbing a blanket, and wrapping herself in it. "Twenty seconds!" the deejay shouted.


"Yes!" Nathan barked. "When do you wanna get married?" Dylan asked. "Valentine's Day, Honey," Aaliyah responded. "Ten seconds, y'all!" the deejay shouted, even louder. Everyone counted down together. "Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" "Happy New Year, y'all!" the deejay screamed. "Happy New Year!" The band began to play Auld Lang Syne, as the fireworks boomed, and a familiar, angelic voice began to sing the lyrics. Everyone turned to face the stage to see who was singing, and many of them nearly fainted when they saw her! "Hi, everyone!" she greeted them after the song ended. "It's Méav!" Luci pointed out. "Méav?" Sean nearly jumped out of his skin as he sprinted towards the stage. "Méav! Is it really you?!" "Yes, Sean, it's me," said Méav. A great wave of happiness swept over the crowd. "I thought you died!" a young man called. "What happened?!" "I did die," said Méav. "I died on Christmas night, but… God said it wasn't my time, not yet. He said that I have more work to do on Earth, for all of you, and many, many more wonderful people under the sun. I'm very excited about my future." "Is your cancer gone?" asked Laurel. "Yes, it is." Méav burst into tears of joy. "Oh, I'm so happy to be back! I missed you all so much!" Everyone cheered. "We played your CD," said the deejay. "It was off da hook!" Méav giggled. "I also read your book." "My book?" Méav was puzzled. "We had your diary published," Róisín explained, "because we wanted the world to know what a wonderful person you were—or are." Méav's heart burst with overwhelming joy. "Thank you, Mum," she said sweetly to Róisín. "Let me just say," said the deejay, "your life story made me cry like a baby. No kiddin', girl." "Awwww!" Méav cooed. "Did anyone else read her book?" The crowed applauded. "If you don't have her book, you gotta get it! It's available wherever books are sold! Get it, y'all!" "Méav, sing for us!" a young girl requested. The crowd chanted. "Sing! Sing! Sing! Sing!" Méav beamed. "Alright, but before I start, I would love to invite my dear, sweet husband, Sean Archuleta, up here, so we can sing it as a duet." Sean's jaw dropped. "Is she serious?" he panted eagerly.


"Sean, Baby, come on up here," Méav called gently. Sean climbed on stage with his beloved wife. "This is one of my favourite songs," said Méav. "It's called When You Believe, and if you don't know it, it was originally performed by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. I want to sing this with my precious Sean." So, they both sang it as a duet, and brought tears to many people's eyes. Everyone was able to see and feel the chemistry between the couple as they performed. It was even more powerful at the very end of the song, when Méav and Sean shared a fiery, passion-filled kiss. Méav and Sean bowed as they received a standing ovation. "Thank you!" Sean panted. "You guys rock!" "You were a wonderful audience," agreed Méav. "We love you very much." She blew a kiss into the air. Sean threw his arms around her, and lifted her into his arms. He carried her to the table, where her family waited for her with open arms. They sat next to each other, and Sean wrapped a warm blanket around her. Méav's four children ran into her arms, sobbing and weeping tears of joy. Her parents, brother, and best friends warmed her up with a group hug. Then, Luci poked her head in between Aindréas and Róisín. "Hi, Méav," she greeted. "Hi, Luci," Méav replied. "Aindréas and I are together." "I knew it had to happen someday." Méav and Luci giggled. "Méav!" A woman approached the table. "I'm Natalia Barber. I'm one of the nurses at the children's hospital you've been visiting." "Hi, Natalia," Méav greeted, shaking Natalia's hand. "You can just call me Tallie. I just came by to tell you that we play your CD for all our patients, and it seems to be doin' the trick. It makes them less nervous, and I believe it might have somethin' to do with healing several of them. In the past few days, a lot of the kids have checked out of the hospital… for good!" "They got cured?" Chelsea enquired. "Yep." Natalia nodded. "They sure did." "Oh, that's wonderful," said Méav. "I just came by to thank you. You saved a lot of lives in the past week, just by singin'. Girl, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if, tomorrow, you woke up, and won the Nobel Peace Prize." "Awww, bless you, Tallie." "You and your family have yourselves a Happy New Year, and we'll see you next time you stop by." "Thank you so much." As Natalia left the table, Méav glanced at Aaliyah and Dylan, and saw the ecstasy on their faces. "What are you two lovebirds so happy about?" "Should we tell her?" Aaliyah whispered to Dylan. Dylan nodded. "Méav, Dylan and I are getting married on Valentine's Day!"


"Ohhh, how wonderful!" Méav squeezed the two in her arms, and kissed their foreheads. "I'm so happy for you!" "We want you to be the maid of honour," said Dylan. "I would be honoured." Méav looked down at her lap, and saw Hannah resting her head. She stroked her hair. "Awww, are you sleepy, Hannah Bear?" "Yeah," Hannah yawned. "We'll go home in a few minutes." After a few more moments of chatting and laughter, the thirteen of them decided to go home together, and spend the rest of New Year's Day with each other. Méav tucked her four children in bed, and she, Aaliyah, and Luci sang them a lullaby trio. Then, Méav bent over to kiss each of her children good night. "Good night, my precious angels." "Mommy, please don't leave again," Hannah whispered, barely awake. "I'll never leave you again, Baby. I'll never leave any of you again, because my cancer is gone for good." "God took it away?" Nathan enquired. "Yes, my angel. He healed me." "Good," said Chelsea. Méav kissed them one more time. "Good night, my little candies." The children laughed as they closed their eyes. As Méav exited the room, she saw the rest of her family in the hall, standing outside the door. "Were you listening?" she asked. "Yeah," Sean answered, embarrassed. "It's alright." She giggled softly. "I don't mind." "Oh, good," Sean sighed, relieved. "So, what's the name of my album?" "We decided to call it Songs of an Angel," said Críostóir, "because an angel sang all the songs beautifully." "Oh, Daddy. What about my journal?" "Angel of God's Children," Róisín answered, "because you truly are the angel of his children." "While we were at the party, I went to the gift shop, and bought you another thick journal," said Aindréas as he placed the empty diary in Méav's arms. "Now, you can write Volume Two." "Oh, thank you, Aindréas. Thank you all for being my family. You are my treasures, and I will cherish you for an eternity. No expensive gift will ever take the place of the people I love, and as I meet new people, my family will continue to grow. I know I'll make even more friends, because I love people, even the worst of criminals. I believe that there's a little bit of good in everyone, and I make many new friends as I live my life. I'm so thankful that God sent me back to Earth, because I missed everybody so much." She wiped away tears. "I love you all so much, from the bottom of my heart, and I will not leave you again, until all my work on Earth is complete." She wrapped her arms around her family. "Good night, Mommy," Hannah murmured. "I love you." "I love you, too." Méav blew a kiss to the children. "I love you all."


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