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Candelaria was an angel from Ireland, or at least, that’s what everyone called her. She was a sweet, beautiful, and talented woman with the voice of a goddess. She was adored and cherished by everyone who knew her. With the love in her heart, and her smile, alive with sunshine, she brought so much joy to so many people. Her name said it all. Candelaria is a Spanish name, meaning “candlemas.” Her last name was Solas, which is a Gaelic word, meaning “light.” Her friends all called her Candi, because of how sweet she was. Her mother, Máiréad Solas, named her Candelaria for the obvious reasons. Like a candle’s flame, she was warm and beautiful, and she had a smile that could light up the darkest rooms. Candi had immigrated from Ireland, with her mother, when she was seventeen years old, shortly after her father died of heart failure. They settled into Miami, Florida, and managed to make friends rather quickly. After finishing college, Candi wanted to work at the church, so she volunteered as a choir director. Her choir was also a group she created. Candi had decided to start this group of her own, so she could offer support for those who needed it. The members of the group were either lonely, abused, neglected, lost, depressed for various reasons, or they just wanted to feel loved. Some had joined the group to make new friends, or to be with friends that were part of the group. For whatever reason, Candi’s group was filled with more love than anyone could ever imagine in a lifetime.
At the Party
Candi’s group had put on a performance at the church. They were all performing a few Irish pieces. The sound of sixty voices as pure as a chorus of angels, and the orchestra completing the music, filled every eye in the audience with tears. They were just wrapping up the concert with a beautiful and uplifting Celtic piece called The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun, originally by Celtic Woman. Afterwards, they received a standing ovation. The choir acknowledged the members of the orchestra, and Candi. Then, they all took a bow together. After the song, Candi took the microphone. She recited a few lines from the song. “I am the dawn, and the new day begun. I bring you the morning; I bring you the sun. I hold back the night, and I open the skies. I give light to the world; I give sight to your eyes.” She paused for a few seconds. “Did you hear the message in those lyrics? I have always loved that song. It reminds us that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, a sunrise at the end of every dark night, and that there is hope, even in the worst of situations. When I listen to the lyrics, I know I will conquer anything. The song also reminds us that, when things are tough, there will always be tomorrow, and tomorrow is the chance for healing and reconciling. Remember to have faith. Pray, believe, and look for good in all things, even if they cause you pain. When a loved one passes on, I believe they live on in heaven, and they watch over you. When a child falls, and bruises their knee, they will heal. With love and medicine, they’ll heal more easily. When a romance comes to an end, you have a chance to find someone else, until you finally find the one you were meant to spend the rest of your life with. Never give up. I believe in everything I just said, and I often tell that to my group. Pass this on to others you love.” The audience tearfully applauded Candi’s beautiful speech. After the concert, Candi met up with her mother, outside the dressing room. Máiréad gave her daughter a big hug. “Oh, Darling!” she cried. “You were wonderful! I’m very proud of you!” “Thank you, Mum,” Candi replied. “I’ll see you in the fellowship hall in a few minutes.” “Alright.” Candi went into the dressing room to fix her makeup for dinner. Then, she left, and headed to the fellowship hall. She saw her mother and her best friend, Lillian, sitting together, and she joined them. “Hello.” “Hey, girl,” Lillian greeted. “Hi, Darling,” Máiréad greeted as well. “You were smokin’ tonight!” Lillian barked. Candi laughed. “You think so?” “Oh, yeah. Honey, your choir was on fire.” Candi and Máiréad laughed at Lillian’s joke. “So, where’s Gabriel?” asked Máiréad. “He didn’t want to come,” Candi replied.
“Oh, that’s a shame. He missed a fantastic show.” “Well, this isn’t really his scene, so I’m not upset.” “Yeah, but he should’ve been here at least to support you,” added Lillian. “I don’t like to push anyone.” “You’re such a sweet person,” said Máiréad. Lillian grunted. “There’s just somethin’ about that boy I don’t like. I mean, he’s cute, but he never comes to your concerts, and this is, like, really important to you. If he loved you, he’d support you.” “He does.” “He sure has a funny way of showing it.” “Well, I respect his beliefs, and I don’t want to push him into doing things he doesn’t believe in.” “I know. I just don’t wanna see my best friend getting’ hurt.” “And, I appreciate that.” While they were talking, one of the group members, Mae, came to say good night. “Hey, guys. I have to go.” “Can’t you stay for the party?” asked Lillian. “No. My mom told me to come straight home from the concert, or I’m grounded for a month.” Máiréad scoffed. “That’s ridiculous.” Mae nodded. “Tell me about it. My mom doesn’t even care.” “What about your father?” “He’s in jail.” “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.” “No, it’s okay. I need to talk to people about it.” “Well, go on home, Sweetie,” Candi said sweetly, “but please help yourself to a treat. You did a fabulous job in the concert.” “Thanks.” “You will be able to come to tomorrow’s group meeting, though, right?” “Yeah.” “Good.” “See you guys.” Mae took a few cookies on her way out. Máiréad sighed. “Poor girl.” “I know,” Candi agreed. “Her mum never supports her, and I don’t understand why. She has such a beautiful voice.” “How old is she?” “She’s seventeen.” “Unbelievable!” Lillian snapped. “She’s more than earned her mama’s trust. She’s almost a grown woman!” “I know. It’s such a shame her mother won’t let her grow up, and she can’t even be with her father.” Candi wiped a few tears from her eyes. “I’m just glad we can all be there for her.” “I know she’s more than grateful you created the group,” Máiréad commented. “I hope we can reach her mother one of these days.”
Just then, Candi’s best male friend, Angelicus, sneaked up behind her. “Boo,” he teased. Candi jumped, and turned around. “Oh, hi!” she laughed. “You gave me a fright.” “Can I join you?” “Of course.” Angelicus pulled up a chair, and sat between Candi and Lillian. “You did an awesome job, directing us.” Angelicus is a member of the group. “Thank you, Sweetie. You did a great job, too. You sang beautifully.” Angelicus blushed. “Thanks.” “I can see why your name is Angelicus. You sing like an angel, and you act like one, too.” He blushed even more. “Stop. You’re embarrassing me,” he teased. “Boy, you are so cute when you blush,” Lillian flirted. “Alright, Sweetheart, I don’t think he can get any redder,” Candi chuckled. They all laughed together, but right in the middle of their laughter, Candi started coughing. “You okay?” asked Lillian. “Oh, yes. I’m fine.” “Do you need to go to the doctor?” “No, it’s probably just allergies.” “It didn’t sound like allergies. Sounds like a cold.” “Then, I’ll take some cough medicine. I’ll be alright.” “Okay.” “You may want to take some cough syrup when you get home,” said Máiréad. Lillian made a face. “Yuck. That stuff is nasty.” “Actually, it’s not too bad,” said Candi. “I like it.” “I do, too,” Angelicus agreed. “Tastes like cinnamon.” “Y’all are brave,” Lillian chuckled. They all laughed again. During their laughter, Reverend Fulton joined them at their table. “Hello, Reverend,” Candi greeted. “Candi, you took my breath away tonight,” he said. Candi blushed. “I’m serious. You put on the most beautiful show I’ve ever seen. Then again, when have you not?” Candi giggled. “Aww, thank you.” “I wanna see another show in a few months time. Will you do that?” “I would love to, and I have some ideas for a theme. I would love to discuss them with you and the group.” “Bless you for that. Well, I just wanted to come over, and tell you what a wonderful job y’all did tonight.” “Thank you so much, Reverend.”
Date at the Outback Steakhouse
The next day, Candi met up with Gabriel for lunch, at the Outback Steakhouse, across town. “So, how was the concert?” asked Gabriel. “It was quite lovely,” Candi replied. “You missed a good show.” “Well, you know this Christian stuff isn’t really my thing.” “I respect that.” “So, what’re you getting?” “I think I’ll just have a salad.” “No steak?” Candi shook her head. “Come on. It’s a steakhouse. You gotta have steak.” “I might get the Blooming Onion.” “That’s good, but… no steak?” Gabriel snarled. “I’m a vegetarian.” “Yeah, but… you wanted to come here.” “I said I wanted to after you invited me.” “Why’d you say yes?” “I love their salads, and I love the Blooming Onion.” “Whatever.” “Gabriel, I have my reasons for being a vegetarian, and I’d like for you to respect that, just as I respect your beliefs.” “You do not!” Gabriel snapped. “You keep talking about God all the time.” “I talk about him, but I don’t try to force you to believe if you don’t.” Candi sighed. “Gabriel, please, let’s not argue. Let’s just enjoy our lunches.” “You’re right. I’m sorry.” Gabriel pulled a puppy dog pout. “Forgive me?” “Aww, that cute, wittle puppy face always works with me. Of course, I forgive you.” Candi kissed Gabriel’s cheek. “I know I can be a jerk.” “It’s alright. I still love you.” “I still love you, too.” “Aww.” “So, um, have you thought about us getting married?” “I have. I think about it a lot. Have you?” “Yeah. Do you want kids?” “I absolutely do. What about you?” Gabriel hesitated. “Uhh, maybe. I mean, I don’t know.” “That’s alright. Even if we never have kids together, we’ll at least have each other.” “Hold on. I never proposed to you.” “I know. I’m just letting you know that if we do get married, and you don’t want children, that’s alright with me.” “Oh.” Candi chuckled. “Have you decided what you want?”
“About…?” “Lunch.” “Oh!” Gabriel laughed nervously. “A steak and fries.” Candi looked puzzled for a moment. “Fries?” “Yeah. French fries.” “Oh, I keep forgetting. In Ireland, we call them chips.” “Yeah, well, we’re not in Ireland, so they’re not chips,” Gabriel snarled. “We’re in America.” “I’m sorry.” “I can’t believe this. You’ve been living here for eight freakin’ years, and you still act like you’re in Ireland! Well, you’re not! You’re in America!” “Gabriel, stop it,” Candi snapped. “I said I was sorry.” “Okay.” “Look, Baby, I love you. You know I do. I want to be with you for the rest of my life, but if this relationship’s ever going to work out, we have to learn to accept each other. I learnt to respect your beliefs and heritage. Now, you have to learn to respect mine. I’m proud of my Irish heritage, and God is very important to me. You don’t have to believe what I believe, but you have to accept me as I am. If you don’t, we’ll never work out.” Gabriel sighed. “Okay. I’m sorry, Candi. I want this to work out, too. You’re right. I need to respect your beliefs, and about you being Irish, I think that’s pretty hot.” Candi giggled and blushed. “Hot, is it?” “Ohh, yeah,” Gabriel flirted. “And, your accent is hotter.” “Awww.” Candi smiled sweetly at Gabriel. “Ta me chomh mor sin i ngra leat.” “What does that mean?” “That’s Irish for ‘I love you so much,’ and I meant it.” “I love you, too.” “Gaelic is the Irish language.” “It’s beautiful.” “I’d be happy to teach you some more phrases.” “Cool.” Gabriel rubbed his stomach. “Where is the waiter? I’m starving.” “Me, too. I’m sure it won’t be long.” “I hope not.” Well, coincidentally, the waitress came to their table. “Hi. I’m Tori. I will be serving you. What would you like to drink?” “I’d like a beer, please,” said Gabriel. “And, I’d like some iced tea, please,” added Candi. “Sweetened or unsweetened?” asked Tori. “Sweetened.” “Okay. I’ll be right back.” Tori walked away with the drink orders. “Finally!” Gabriel huffed. Candi laughed quietly and nodded. “Wait, why won’t you have a beer?”
Candi sighed. “Gabriel, please. Let’s not start this again. I don’t drink alcohol.” “Okay, sorry.” “Thank you.” Tori returned with the drinks. “Here’s a beer for you, sir,” she said as she placed Gabriel’s drink in front of him. “Thank you.” “And, here’s your tea, ma’am,” Tori said, placing Candi’s drink in front of her. “Thank you very much.” “You’re welcome,” said Tori. “Are you guys ready to order yet?” “Yes,” Gabriel replied. “I’d like a steak and fries.” “And, I would like a small salad and the Blooming Onion,” added Candi. “What kind of dressing would you like?” Tori asked, writing down their orders. “Italian.” “Okay. You’re food will be ready in a few.” Tori walked away again. Gabriel pulled a face. “Yuck.” “What is it now?” Candi asked, a tad frustrated. “Italian dressing? Tastes like crap.” “Oh,” Candi chuckled nervously. “I—I’m sorry,” Gabriel stuttered. “From now on, I won’t criticise you anymore, and I won’t yell at you.” “Promise?” “I swear.” “Alright.” “So, what are you doing today?” “I have a group meeting at the church this afternoon.” “What do you do at the meetings?” “We just talk, and we might rehearse for an upcoming performance.” “What do you talk about?” “Life, and how being in the group helps make things easier.” “Cool.” Candi nodded. “How many people are in the group?” “Sixty.” “Holy crap! Sixty?!” Candi laughed at Gabriel’s reaction. “Yes, sixty.” “You help that many people?” “Yes.” “How do you manage that?” “It’s actually quite enjoyable. You’d be surprised what one word of kindness can do for another person.” “Wow. You’re amazing.” “So are you.” “Not like you.”
Candi smiled at Gabriel. “Aww.” “What time is the meeting?” “It’s at 4:30, but I have to be there about a half hour early. I’m meeting with Reverend Fulton to discuss ideas for a big concert.” “Cool! What ideas?” “I was thinking about ideas for a good theme for the concert.” “Like what?” “Love, peace, and God. I’ve already written down a list of songs for my choir to pick and sing.” “Lemme see it.” “Oh, I don’t have it with me. It’s at home.” “Damn it. I wanted to see it.” “I’m sorry.” “Ah, it’s okay. I’ll see it later.” “Sweetie, I know you’re not a religious person, but I would still love for you to come to one of my concerts.” Gabriel hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said awkwardly. “Please? I think you’d like the voices these people have. They all sing so beautifully.” “Maybe. I’ll think about it.” “Okay.” Just then, Tori returned with their food. “Here’s your steak and fries,” she said, placing the plate in front of Gabriel. “And, your salad and Blooming Onion.” She placed Candi’s plate in front of her. “Can I get you anything else?” “No, we’re good,” said Gabriel. “Thank you,” said Candi. “You’re welcome. I’ll be back in about ten minutes.” Tori left the table, and Candi and Gabriel started eating their lunches.
Chapter 3 Group Meeting
Around 4:30, that afternoon, Candi and her group had gathered in the church’s large classroom for a meeting. Candi had her list of songs for the concert. “Okay, I’ve discussed this with Reverend Fulton, and he seems to like the idea of love, peace, and God for the theme of our next concert, which will take place in six months. That should give all of us plenty of time to rehearse the songs. Now, I have been planning this for a while, and I have made a list of songs we can all choose from. Some of them are classics from musicals, and some of them are some of my favourite Irish pieces. I’ve made a list of about thirty songs to choose from.” While Candi spoke, someone in the group raised their hand. “Yes, Brie?” “Well, I was thinking we could listen to the songs, and vote for the ones we wanna do.” “That’s a great idea, Sweetie!” Candi agreed. “And, it just so happens that I have all the songs on CD. We can listen and vote at the next meeting. Today, I want to know how things are going for everyone. Teresa, how are things between you and your sister?” “Dominique didn’t come to our concert,” Teresa sighed. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Have you tried talking to her?” “She won’t listen. She doesn’t even hear me talking. I always looked up to her, but she doesn’t even know it. I mean, I watch her in all her plays, and I went to all her beauty pageants, back when we were kids. She’s never come to any of my stuff. She won’t even talk to me. It would be nice to have just one stinkin’ moment with her, where she’s actually paying attention to me, and listening to me.” Teresa hung her head. “I just… I feel so invisible.” “You’re not invisible, girl,” said Natasha. “Your sister just needs a good talkin’-to. What you gotta do is say, ‘Hey, Dominique, I gotta talk to you, Honey. I have somethin’ important to say,’ and then, just say how you’re feelin’.” Candi smiled and nodded. “Try to get her attention, and when you do, tell her what she means to you.” “Thank you so much,” Teresa said sweetly. “You’re welcome. William, Dear, how is your daughter? Have you heard anything from her doctor?” William wiped away a tear. “He said she... only has six months left.” William’s daughter was a victim of Breast Cancer. “They can’t do anything to save her?” “No, it’s too late. The cancer’s already spread too far.” “Oh, no. I’m so sorry. We’ll all keep you, your daughter, and your whole family in our prayers.” “Thank you,” William responded, trying not to cry. “We all go through pain in our lives. Some pain is worse than other kinds of pain, but nonetheless, you’ll always have a safe place to be when you feel you can’t handle it on your own. Whether it’s a distant friendship, a relative who 9
doesn’t seem to care, or a lost loved one, you’re always free to let out your sorrows here. No one should have to suffer alone. In times of sadness, or any difficult time, for that matter, prayers are needed, and even more, love is needed. Where would prayers come from if they didn’t come from a sincere, loving heart? I want you all to know that I pray for you nonstop. Every night, before I fall asleep, I pray for you. Before every meal, I pray for you, and every time I sit and think of you, I pray for you. I send out all my love to you, and I ask God to bless you. I truly and sincerely love you very much. Remember that.” “We love you, too, Candi,” said Chloe, a young lady, also from Ireland. “Since joining the group, have any of you had a prayer answered, or has anything good come out of being a part of the group?” Everyone agreed, and another young girl raised her hand to speak. “Yes, Jessica?” “Well, before my dad and I joined, we didn’t get along,” said Jessica. “I was always rebelling against him, and I didn’t treat him with the respect he deserved. Now, I realise I was wrong.” “We’re much closer now,” added her father, Leo, “and we get along much better. I couldn’t be more grateful to you, Candi.” “Thanks for helping me see that my dad just loves me, and wants me to be happy and safe.” Candi felt warm and tingly inside. “You’re always welcome.” A young, blond man raised his hand. “Yes, Nicolaj?” “I had a lot of prayers answered. Actually, before I came here, I didn’t even believe in God. It wasn’t really my kind of thing to believe. Then, I joined the group, and suddenly, everything turned around for me. I wasn’t happy. I was lonely, and I didn’t think I belonged in this world. Back in Denmark, in school, I got bullied really badly. The other kids made fun of me, betrayed me, and even beat me up. I wasn’t sure who my real friends were, because every time I made a friend, they’d, all of a sudden, turn their backs on me. Even my own parents didn’t get me. When I turned eighteen, I moved here, and I joined this group. The reason I joined was to make friends, but I made more than just that. I found where I belong. I found a huge group of, not just friends, but a big family. I have everything I could ever want, thanks to you, Candi. I found happiness, and I found where I belong.” “You’ll always have us, Nicolaj,” said Candi. “I know that now. Thanks, Candi.” Then, identical twin girls raised their hands. “Yes, Amy and Audrey?” “Our family just moved here from England, like last year,” said Amy, “and we were hoping to make friends who shared our interests, and our religion.” “I was looking in the phone book, and I found the address for this church,” added their mother, Jane. “We heard about this group, and we decided to give it a try.” “We’re really, really glad we did,” agreed Audrey.
Candi smiled and nodded. “I’m glad you made the decision to join. Moving to a strange country can be difficult, because you don’t know anybody. I know how it feels. I was once in that place. I know there are a few immigrants in our group. We have Lena from Russia, Jordan from Jamaica, Nicolaj from Denmark, Joseph from Sweden, Elizabeth and Sierra from Norway, Chanel from Barbados, Luciana from Chile, and Alyssa from England. Jane and her daughters are also from England, and I know we have a few Canadians in our group as well—Malinda, Chelsea, Haylie, and Jason.” “I’m French Canadian,” said Jason. “Were any of you scared when you first moved to America?” They all nodded. “It can be frightening to live in a place where you don’t know anybody, and you have to adjust. That’s such a big step to take, but you had the courage to take it. Now, look at you. You’re all part of a big family of people who love you, and it doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s who you are as a person that really counts, and each of you are good, decent, warm, and kind-hearted people. Now, let’s all hold hands as I recite our prayer of peace.” Everyone stood up, in a large circle, and held hands together. They all knelt down as Candi recited the prayer. “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility. Amen.” “Amen!” everyone repeated.
Candi had just left the church, and she was walking home, when she saw Gabriel’s friend, Billy, arguing with his girlfriend, Katie. “But, why are you doing this?!” Katie cried. “Look, it’s just not working for me!” Billy replied. “I thought you were in love with me! You said so yourself! Damn it! I can’t believe you!” “Well, I was wrong!” “You lied to me!” “Katie, it’s not you! It’s me!” “Oh, that old ‘It’s not you; it’s me’ excuse! You’re such a jerk!” “Don’t make this any harder—“ “Oh, shut up, Billy!” “Maybe we can still be friends!” Katie ignored Billy, and walked away. Billy followed. “Katie, wait!” He gently grabbed her arm. “Let me go!” Katie shouted. “I don’t wanna hear what you have to say! I’ve heard enough!” “Just let me—“ “No! I get it! You never loved me! You led me to believe we actually had a future together! I’m sick of being lied to! Just leave me alone! I hate you!” And, Katie walked away. Candi’s heart sunk while watching the couple split. Billy turned around to see her a few feat away, and he sauntered toward her. “Did you hear the whole thing?” he asked. Candi nodded sadly. “I’m actually glad you did, because I need to talk to you about something.” “What is it?” “I was trying to find a way to tell Katie, but I can’t. I’ve never told anybody, but I know I can trust you. So, promise you won’t tell anyone?” “I promise.” “I thought I had feelings for Katie, but I don’t. See, I don’t like girls like that. I’m gay.” “You haven’t told anyone this?” “No.” “Not even your friends or family?” “No. You’re the first one to know.” “I’m flattered you trust me enough to tell me, but why haven’t you told anyone else?” “I’m too afraid. What if they won’t accept me?” “I accept you.” “I know you do, but… I don’t know about everyone else.” Billy sighed. “I just… I don’t know what to do.”
“Billy, I know it’s frightening to tell your friends something like that, but you have to be honest with the ones you care about. It may take them a while to get used to knowing, but if they really care about you, they will accept you for you.” “Are you sure?” “I am. I don’t see anything wrong with being homosexual. That’s just part of who you are. In fact, I have friends who are gay, but I don’t love them any less than I did before I knew.” “Well, I’m not ready for my friends to know yet.” “I understand.” “Please don’t tell anyone.” “Your secret is safe with me.” “Thanks.” Billy hugged Candi. “Aww, you’re welcome.” “I know I can trust you.” “Muinín.” Billy was confused. “What?” “That’s Gaelic for ‘trust.’” “Oh, cool. I can muinín you.” Candi giggled. “Yes.” “How do you say ‘thank you’ in Gaelic?” “Go raibh maith agat.” “Oh, well, go raibh maith agat.” “Tá fáilte romhat. You’re welcome.” Billy exhaled quickly. “Wow, you’re good at Gaelic.” “Well, I am Irish.” “That explains it,” Billy joked. Candi laughed. “Do you want me to walk you home?” “Yeah, I don’t wanna go home by myself right now.” “It’s alright. Come on.” Candi held Billy’s hand, and she guided him through the dark night, until they reached his house. “Thanks for walking me home, Candi,” said Billy. “Anytime, Billy. Do you want me—“ Candy was interrupted by another cough. “Are you okay?” Candi kept coughing. Billy was getting worried. “Should I call a doctor?” Candi stopped coughing. “No, I’m okay.” “Maybe you’re getting a cold. I mean, it’s a little chilly out here.” “Maybe. I’ll be alright. Do you want me to come in with you, for a little while?” “No, I’ll be okay after a while. I’ll just watch TV.” “Okay, but if you need to talk, you can always call me, or come over.” “Thanks.” Billy gave Candi another hug. “Oh, and I don’t care if I catch your cold.” Candi chuckled. “You’re so kind.”
“You, too.” “Well, good night, and I hope things get better for you.” “I hope you feel better.” “Go raibh maith agat.” “Tá fáilte romhat,” Billy replied. He watched Candi leave, and then, he closed his front door. Candi headed back home safely.
A Special Place for Mae
A week later, Candi was still feeling sick, and she was starting to feel tired and weak. She got out of bed, and slowly got ready for another meeting with her group. While she was brushing her teeth, Máiréad knocked on the bathroom door. Candi had her own house, but Máiréad often visited. “Come in.” Candi said. She did so. “Candi, Darling, I know you haven’t been feeling well for a while. Do you think you should stay home today?” “No. My friends need my help. I don’t mind going.” “Well, should I call the doctor to schedule an appointment?” “Sure.” Candi chuckled. “I’d like to know how to get rid of whatever I have.” “Alright. I’ll call now.” Máiréad ran to the phone as Candi finished getting ready. At the group meeting, Candi had brought a CD of all the songs she had chosen for her group to sing, as well as a list. Today was the day that everyone would vote for about fourteen to fifteen songs to sing. “Alright, everyone. I have the list of songs to choose from. You can all pass it around. Then, I’ll play samples from my CD. Afterwards, we’ll all vote for the songs we want. Each song has at least one solo in it. I want everyone to have a chance to sing a solo. While I pass the list around, I want to know how things are going for each of you.” Candi handed the list to Teresa, who was sitting at the very end of the front row. Chloe raised her hand. “Yes, Chloe?” “I actually wanted to talk to you… in private.” “Are you sure you can’t say it here?” “No. It’s a bit embarrassing.” Chloe laughed nervously. “Alright.” Mae raised her hand. “Mae, how are things with you and your mum?” Mae sighed. “Last night, I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t listen to me. Like, I was trying to tell her that I wish she would support me, and actually be there for me. She said she didn’t have time to listen to my sob stories.” “What?!” Natasha shrieked. “Then, I overheard her on the phone. She was gossiping with one of her girlfriends. She said some really mean stuff about me. She said she couldn’t wait to get rid of me. She hates me.” “Did she actually say that?!” Natasha asked in shock. “Yes. Her exact words were, ‘I can’t wait to get rid of my bratty daughter. Mae is so annoying. I’m sick of her pathetic stories about how I don’t care. Well, duh! Of course, I don’t care. I hate her. I can’t even remember why I bothered giving birth to her.’”
“What kinda mama hates her own kid?” “Mine.” “I know. What kinda mama is she? Oh, you don’t gotta answer that.” Mae laughed a little. “I can’t believe there’s actually people out there that hate they own kids.” “I know,” Melanie said sympathetically. “I’m really sorry, Mae.” Tears fell from Mae’s eyes. “I don’t get it. She never used to be like that. We used to be so close. Then, my dad gets arrested, and she suddenly hates me. I can’t wait to get away from her. When I turn eighteen, I’m moving away from her, and she’ll never have to see me again!” she sobbed. Candi gave Mae a big hug as she cried. “Oh, Sweetie.” “I feel like an orphan.” “I know. Your father’s in jail, and your mother’s treating you horribly. I know you feel like an orphan, because neither of your parents is really there for you. But, let me tell you something that may make you feel better. I mean this from the bottom of my heart.” “What?” “I love you as if you were my own daughter.” “Really?” “Of course. I always have, and the same applies to everyone here. I view all of you as my own children, my brothers, and my sisters. You’re all a part of my family, and that makes me feel so blessed.” Candi held Mae tighter. “Mae, if you’ll let me, I will come with you, to your house, and I’ll try talking to your mother. If she won’t listen, I’ll adopt you myself.” Mae smiled through her tears. “Are you really serious about that?” “I would never lie to you.” “When will you be able to come over?” “How about right after today’s meeting?” “Thanks, Candi.” “You’re more than welcome.” Just then, Mae received the song list. She read through it. “I wanna do You Raise Me Up for you, Candi.” “Awww.” “Thanks for everything.” “Anytime.” Then, Méav raised her hand. “Méav, how’s everything going for you and the baby? I remember you saying he’s been sick.” “He’s okay. I took him to the doctor.” “Oh, I’m glad.” “Yeah. I was really scared.” “I can imagine.” “Thanks for praying for him. I think that may have helped him a lot.” “You’re welcome.” Candi sighed. “I may need prayers as well. Lately, I’ve been feeling sick, and I’m not exactly sure what I have. I thought it was the flu, but flu medicine hasn’t had any effect on me. I’m seeing a doctor on Monday.
I’m quite nervous to know what it is. I hope I’ll be alright, because I want to be here for each of you for a long time. Will you please pray for me?” “Of course, we will, Candi,” Charity said sweetly. “Thank you all.” “I hope you’ll be okay,” said Brad. Candi nodded. “I hope so, too.” After the meeting, Candi kept her promise to Mae. She drove Mae home, so she could have a talk with her mother. They were parked outside of Mae’s house. “Candi, I’m scared,” Mae worried. “You don’t have to be afraid. I will be right beside you, holding your hand, and I’ll do all the talking, if you feel you can’t say anything. I won’t abandon you.” “It’s not you. I’m scared of how my mom’s gonna treat you. I’m gonna be so mad if she says something mean to you.” “It’s okay, Honey.” Candi hugged Mae. “Let’s go.” Candi and Mae walked right up to the front door, and rang the doorbell. Mae’s mother opened the door. “Yeah?” she says in a snotty tone. “Mrs. Malone?” “Excuse me! It’s Esmeralda.” “I’m sorry, Esmeralda. I’m Candelaria Solas, Mae’s choral director and friend. We need to talk.” “Fine,” Esmeralda snapped. “Come in.” Candi and Mae followed Esmeralda into the kitchen. “I suppose you’re here to tell me that Mae came to you, whining about what a horrible mother I am,” Esmeralda snarled. “Well, let me save you the trouble. Mae is my daughter, and I will treat her the way I want to treat her. She is a spoiled, selfish brat, and all she does is whine, whine, and whine! She probably has you wrapped around her wittle finger. She’s got you thinking she’s so innocent and sweet. Well, I got news for you, Honey. She’s a bitch, and I could care less about her pathetic life!” “Mom, will you stop it?!” Mae shouted. “I’m right here, and I can hear everything you’re saying about me! I’m not deaf! I have a lot I wanna say to you, and I don’t care whether you wanna hear it or not!” She took a deep breath. “How could you treat me like this? I’m your daughter! Ever since dad got arrested, you’ve been taking out all your anger on me! What did I ever do to deserve this?! We used to be so close! You came to my school plays. You supported me, and you were there for me. Now, you won’t even come to my choir concerts, and you never talk to me! All you do is treat me like I’m your punching bag! You think you can say whatever you want about me, and it won’t hurt anything. Well, it does! I’m a human being with feelings!” “Who cares?!” Esmeralda shouted. “Obviously, not you.” “Esmeralda, Mae is a beautiful and wonderful girl,” Candi added. “Don’t you see what you’re missing out on? I know you’re upset about your husband’s arrest, but that’s no reason to take your feelings out on your daughter. Don’t you see? You’ve hurt her so much that it’ll take a lifetime for her to heal.”
“How do you know?” “She came to me today, and she was in tears. During our meeting, she told me everything. She even said that, when she turns eighteen, she’s moving out, so you’ll never have to deal with her again. Why can’t you give her the love and attention she deserves? Why can’t you let go of the anger, and stop taking it out on her? Please think about it.”
You Are Beautiful
The day after, during lunchtime, Lillian came to visit Candi. She rang the doorbell. “I’m coming!” Candi called, heading towards the front door, and opening it. “Hi, Lillian!” She saw Lillian, holding a tiny kitten in her arms. “Aww, is this your kitty?” “Yep,” said Lillian, following Candi into the living room. “Just got him a few days ago. I wanted to come over here, and show him to you.” “Aww! He’s adorable! What’s his name?” “Meow.” Candi laughed. “You named your kitty Meow?” “Yeah.” “That’s so cute!” “I know. He does the cutest thing when he meows.” “Oh?” “Wait. I’ll make him meow. He always meows when I stick my tongue out.” So, Lillian stuck her tongue out. Meow meowed, and he started to run around, in circles. Lillian laughed. “See?! He knows his name is Meow, so every time he meows, he goes lookin’ for himself!” Candi burst out laughing, and the two laughed, long and hard, watching Meow, meowing and chasing himself. “That is too precious!” Candi laughed. “I know!” Lillian cried. “He’s the coolest cat. I love him to death.” Meow continued meowing, and chasing himself. “Alright, Meow, that’s enough,” Lillian chuckled. “I’m all laughed out. I need a five minute break.” Unfortunately, the girls could not stop laughing, and during all the craziness, the doorbell rang again. “Oh, I’ll get it,” Candi said, still giggling a bit. She walked to the door, opened it, and saw Chloe with a worried look on her face. “Chloe? Is everything alright?” “Remember me saying that I needed to talk to you, in private?” “Oh, yes!” Candi nodded. “Please come in. It’s only me and Lillian here.” “Okay.” Chloe followed Candi back into the living room, where Lillian was petting Meow. “Lillian, Chloe’s here,” said Candi. Lillian looked up. “Oh, hey, Chloe! What’s the haps?” Chloe chuckled. “Hi, Lillian.” “Sit down, Sweetie,” Candi suggested. Chloe did so. She sat between Candi and Lillian. “Now, what’s bothering you?” asked Candi. “Well… there’s a boy in our choir, and I like him. I actually think I’m… in love with him. He’s one of my very best friends.” “Oooooh!” Lillian cooed. “Bow-chicka-bow-bow!”
Chloe giggled. “Who is he?” asked Candi. “It’s Charlie. I really love him. He’s so sweet and sensitive, and…” “What’s the problem, then?” “Candi, look at me. I’m not beautiful. He wouldn’t look twice at me, not if I was the last girl on Earth.” “What?!” Lillian shrieked. “Honey, what you talkin’ about? You gotta be one of the hottest girls out there.” “I’m not thin.” “So? That doesn’t make you less beautiful.” Candi put her arm around Chloe’s neck. “Baby, it doesn’t matter what your size is. You are an incredibly beautiful, talented, smart, caring, sweet, loving, and warm-hearted woman. You don’t have to be a stick person to be gorgeous. I think there should be more supermodels with your body type. It’s such a shame that people don’t agree with that.” “I know,” Lillian agreed. “Some of them supermodels died, cuz they stupid managers don’t feed them.” “Or, they worry that, if they eat anything, they’ll gain too much weight, and they won’t be beautiful.” “Someone’s gotta tell them that they’re beautiful, no matter what their size is.” “And, the same goes for you, Sweetheart. If you were ever in a magazine, I’d stare at your picture for hours, and I’d never get tired. I’m sure Charlie feels the same way about you. In fact, I think he’d say you’re the hottest girl he’s ever seen in his life.” Chloe smiled with tears in her eyes. “You really think he would?” “I know he would, and I also know you’d be a beautiful couple.” “Thank you, Candi, and thank you, Lillian.” Chloe hugged them. “I’ll talk to him, tomorrow, after rehearsal, if I remember.” “Okay, and remember, I won’t be there. I’ll be at the doctor’s.” “I hope you’re not too sick.” “I hope so, too, because I want to be around to look after all you angels.” “I’ll say a prayer for you, tonight, when I go to bed.” “Aww, thank you, Sweetheart.” Candi hugged Chloe, and kissed her cheek. “You’re such a wonderful person.” “So, who’ll be there to rehearse with us?” “I will,” Lillian chimed in. “I been listenin’ to the songs y’all picked out, and I also been practicin’ conductin’. I conducted a choir in college, so I know all the stuff.” “I was in the choir she conducted, and she did a fantastic job,” Candi agreed. “You’ll all be in good hands.” Chloe saw Meow in Lillian’s lap. “Is that your cat?” “Yep,” answered Lillian. “Aww. What’s his name?” “Meow.” Chloe giggled. “Meow?”
“Yeah. He does the funniest thing when he meows.” “Oh, Chloe, you have to see this,” Candi chuckled. “It’s very cute.” “I’ll make him meow.” Lillian stuck her tongue out again. Meow meowed, jumped off her lap, and chased himself, still meowing. They all laughed so merrily, watching Meow try to find himself. “That’s so cute!” Chloe laughed. “I wish I had a cat like him.” “Maybe you can get a dog, and name him Ruff,” Lillian joked. Chloe giggled again. “Maybe I will.” “Okay, Meow,” said Lillian, picking up her cat. “Come here, boy. Sit on Mama’s lap.” “Thank you both for everything,” said Chloe. “You made me feel so much better.” “Chloe, we’re always here for you,” said Candi. “I love you.” Chloe hugged and kissed Candi and Lillian. “We love you, too, girl,” said Lillian. “Bye.” Then, Chloe left.
Candi’s Old Friend
Later that day, Candi went to the hospital to visit Victoria, a friend of hers. Victoria was an elderly patient with Colon Cancer. “Hello, Vicky,” Candi greeted. Vicky opened her eyes. “Oh, Candi. How are you, Darlin’?” “I’m doing alright.” Candi sat next to Vicky’s bed. “I’m a little worried, though.” “Worried? Why?” “I’ve been feeling sick for a while, and cold and flu medicine hasn’t been working for me at all. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.” “Oh, I understand. I was extremely frightened when I found out I had cancer, and I cried for days when the doctor told me it was too late to do anything.” “I’m so sorry,” Candi said sympathetically. “Don’t be sorry. I’ve learned to accept it. Death is a frightening concept, but it’s going to happen for me. I’ve learned to look on the bright side. I’ll be going to a better place. I’ll see all my family that has passed on, and I’ll see my late husband.” “And, God will take care of you.” “He sure will.” “Are you scared?” “I’m terrified, but I’m looking forward to heaven.” “I’m very scared of finding out what I have.” “Oh, Honey, I know. You’re too young.” “And, I have a whole family of friends to take care of.” “Your choir?” “Yes. I love them as if they were my own children, and my brothers and sisters. I also have the rest of my family to take care of.” “I know, Darlin’. I’m prayin’ for you.” “Thank you, Sweetie.” Suddenly, Candi started coughing. “Darlin’, are you alright?” Candi stopped coughing. “I don’t know.” Just then, Vicky’s daughter, Alana, walked in. “Ma?” “Oh, hi, Darlin’,” Vicky greeted. “Can I get you anything?” “No, I’m fine, Sweetheart.” “Okay.” “Hi, Alana,” Candi greeted. “Hey, Candi.” “How are you?” “I’m fine,” Alana sighed. “You?” “I’m alright, but I’m feeling sick.” “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Well, I should probably get going. I need to work on conducting for Tuesday.” Candi headed for the door. “Okay, Darlin’,” said Vicky. “Please get well soon.” “Thank you.”
It was very late, that night, and Candi was fast asleep, when suddenly, she woke up to people, banging on her front door, and screaming outside of her house. She rushed downstairs to see what was happening. She opened the door, and saw a very angry Gabriel with his eyes narrowed. Surrounding him were all of his snooty friends, who also seemed very angry. “Gabriel?” Candi trembled. “What’s… going on?” “You’re a fake!” Gabriel growled. “Excuse me?!” “I should’ve known you couldn’t be trusted! All that sweetness was just a bunch of crap!” “What are you talking about, Gabriel?!” “How could you tell everyone Billy’s gay?! He trusted you with that secret! He specifically told you not to tell anyone, and you went, and told all of Miami, you deceitful, little bitch!” Candi’s jaw dropped in shock. “I did no such thing!” “Liar!” “Don’t call me a liar! I would never do that to anyone, and for as long as you’ve known me, I can’t even believe you’d think that!” “You’re the only one who knew!” “Gabriel—“ “Forget it, Candi! We’ve all lost our muinín in you!” “Yeah!” everyone else screamed. “You’re a fake,” Gabriel roared, “and I will see to it that all of Miami knows it! We will expose you for the evil person you are! Who’s with me?!” Everyone else cheered. Gabriel chanted. “Candi is a fake! Candi is a fake!” Everyone else joined in. “Candi is a fake! Candi is a fake! Candi is a fake! Candi is a fake!” Poor Candi could not take anymore. She ran back in the house, slammed the front door, and ran back to her room. She crawled into bed again, and cried herself to sleep. She did not sleep peacefully for the rest of the night, but she hoped that things would be better in the morning. When morning came, Candi got out of bed, and got dressed. Then, she went outside to check the mail. The mail carrier was very early in her neighbourhood. She opened her mailbox to see that she had a stack of envelopes inside. Fear struck her, for she just knew these were hate letters. However, she took them inside to read them. Sure enough, every letter in the stack was hate mail from Gabriel and his friends. Candi knew she did not leak Billy’s secret, but something inside of her kept telling her that maybe she really was a fake. We all know she’s not a fake, but that’s just how she felt. With each letter, the guilt deepened.
While she read her mail, Lillian opened the front door. “Candi, are you awake?!” she called. “I’m in the kitchen!” Candi answered, trying to hide the fact that she was crying. However, Lillian could see she was upset when she walked into the kitchen. “Candi, what’s wrong?” “Look at these letters.” Lillian read every letter, and she was absolutely horrified! “Oh, my God! Gabriel wrote these?!” “Some of them. The others are from his friends.” “Why would he write horse poop like that?” “Last night, he and his friends woke me up. They came to my house, accusing me of leaking a secret that… a friend trusted me to keep. I didn’t do it, Lillian,” Candi sobbed. “I didn’t do it, but no one believes me. Gabriel even threatened me.” “What?!” Lillian shouted. “He said he would let all of Miami know that I’m a fake. He would expose me for the evil person I am.” “I knew it! I knew there was somethin’ about that boy I did not like. My hunches are never wrong. I knew he was bad news.” “What if he’s right?” “About what? You didn’t spill the beans.” “I know, but maybe… maybe I am a fake. Maybe I’m not the nice person people think I am.” “Honey, I have known you for… since you came to America, and you are no fake. You have never, ever betrayed my trust in any way. You were always there for me—through thick, through thin, through good, and bad. You have never done me wrong, Honey. You’re not a fake. You just leave Gabriel and his little ‘friends’ to me.” During their talk, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” said Lillian. “You stay right here.” She headed towards the front door, opened it, and saw one of Gabriel’s angry friends. “Yes?” “Where’s Candi?” the man snarled. “Why?” “I wanna kick her ass. That’s why.” “I don’t think so, Homie!” Lillian barked. “Where’s Candi?” “None o’ yo’ beeswax! Now, buzz off!” “Now, look, Miss Thang, if you don’t tell me where she is right now, I’m gonna kick your ass, too.” Lillian scoffed. “I ain’t afraid of you, punk!” “Now!!” “Oh, shut up, yutz.” Lillian unexpectedly punched the man. “Want some more?” Tears fell from his eyes.
“I didn’t think so. Now, get lost.” Lillian shoved him out of the way, and slammed the door. “See ya,” she mumbled, marching back into the kitchen. “See? I told you I’d handle those morons.” Candi laughed a little through her tears. “Thank you, Lillian.” “You were always there for me, and I’m always gonna be there for you, too, girl. I will do whatever it takes to protect you.” “Will you go to my doctor’s appointment with me, please?” “You know I will. As a matter of fact, I’ll drive you there, too.” “Oh, wait!” Candi gasped. “What about the group meeting?” “That’s not until 5:30. We’ll be out by then.” “I love you so much.” “Ahh, I love you, too, sister girl.” Lillian gave Candi a big, comforting hug. Candi never approved of violence, but nevertheless, she was more than grateful to have such a loyal and caring friend who would do anything to keep her safe. Lillian and Candi were like Siamese twins. Their friendship was unbreakable.
After lunch, Lillian drove Candi to her appointment. When they arrived at the hospital, they hurried to the front desk. “May I help you?” asked the secretary. “Yes,” said Candi. “I’m here for my 1:30 appointment. My name is Candelaria Solas.” The secretary checked on her computer. “Okay. We got you down. The doctor will be with you in a minute. Just have a seat.” “Thank you.” Candi and Lillian sat down for a few moments. Candi sighed. “I’m scared, Lillian.” “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be just fine.” After a few minutes, a nurse walked into the waiting room. “Uh, Candelaria Solas?” “Oh, that’s me.” Candi and Lillian jumped up, and followed the nurse back to Dr. Ford’s office. He ran a few tests on Candi. “So?” Candi wondered. Dr. Ford sighed. “The results will take a while to come.” “Oh, I can wait.” “No, I mean, they’ll take a few days.” Lillian exhaled nervously. “A few days?! You mean... it’s not just a cold?” Dr. Ford shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think it could be more serious. The best thing you can do for the next few days is take it easy, and if necessary, I will make a house call.” “Is there any medicine you can give her?” “I’m afraid not, but you can try sucking on cough drops. I don’t know how helpful that is, though. I’m very sorry, Candi.” “It’s alright, Dr. Ford,” Candi said bravely. “I’ll call you when the results are in, and if need be, I’ll make a house call.” “Thank you, and God bless you.” After the appointment, Lillian took Candi home, and she stayed with her, until it was time for her to rehearse with the choir.
Flowers for Candi
“Hey, guys,” Lillian greeted the choir. “Hi, Lillian,” everyone responded. “I’ll be filling in for Candi today, and possibly for a week or so.” “Is she okay?” asked an apprehensive Melanie. “She went to the doctor today, and got tested. The results won’t be in for a few days, so until then, the doctor wants her to take it easy.” “Did he say how serious it could be?” asked Chloe. “He said it might be serious. We don’t know anything yet.” Lillian sighed. “Candi’s going through a really rough time. Her being sick is just half of it. Last night, her boyfriend and his friends came to her house, and accused her of leaking a friend’s secret. They called her a fake, and threatened to tell everyone in Miami. This morning, she got a whole bunch of hate mail. I saw the letters, and they were really bad. I think we all need to pray for her.” “Yeah, and maybe we can get her gifts,” Brie suggested. “Like flowers and balloons and… cards and… anything,” added Candida. “Anything to let her know we’re thinking about her, and we want her to get better,” Melissa agreed. Lillian nodded. “Y’all, I think that’s a great idea. We’ll rehearse today, and for tomorrow’s meeting, meet me outside the mall. I mean the one across from the church.” So, the very next day, everyone met Lillian outside the mall. “Thanks for coming, y’all,” said Lillian. “I know a lot of you can’t afford to buy anything, but don’t sweat it. I can get it for you, and you don’t have to pay me back. Now, where should we start?” “Flowers,” Lisa suggested. “Okay.” Everyone followed Lillian to the flower shop, at the far end of the mall. “What did you find, Brandon?” Lillian asked. Brandon held up a small bouquet of daisies. “Aww, those are pretty.” Then, she turned to see what Angelicus picked out. He had chosen a large bouquet of red roses. “Oooh, look at those!” Angelicus didn’t say anything. Lillian could see a sad expression on his face. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing. Just…” Angelicus paused. “Nothing.” He just headed to the checkout desk. After everyone had chosen flowers for Candelaria, Lillian paid for them, and they decided to go to the toy store, to buy teddy bears and balloons. Amy and Audrey found a teddy bear with “I love you. Feel better,” written on the tummy. They squeezed its tummy. “I love you. Feel better,” the teddy bear said in a squeaky voice. “Awwww!” Amy and Audrey cooed. Meanwhile, Anne found a bouquet of heart shaped balloons. “Oh, these are nice,” she mumbled.
Chloe found a Barbie that looked exactly like Candelaria. “How beautiful,” she sighed. Angela and Melody found a talking Goofy dog. They squeezed his hand. “A-hyuck! Get well soon! A-hyuck! A-hyuck! A-hyuck!” said the Goofy toy. Angela and Melody laughed. “That’s perfect,” said Angela. “I know,” agreed Melody. “That’ll totally make her laugh.” Angelicus picked out a bouquet of balloons with all sorts of love messages written on them, such as “I love you,” “You’re special,” “Hug me,” or “You’re my angel.” He also chose a teddy bear with “Angel” written on the stomach, and red hearts on the cheeks. Everyone brought their items to the checkout desk, and Lillian gladly paid for them. While everyone else walked around the mall, Angelicus decided to sit by himself, on one of the benches, near the escalator, holding all the presents he chose for Candi. He sighed heavily, and looked down at his lap, as tears fell down his cheeks. Just then, Lillian and the rest of the group passed by, and saw Angelicus by himself. Lillian sat down beside him. “Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked. “Nothing,” said Angelicus. “Come on. You can tell me.” No answer. “Are you upset about Candi?” He nodded. “Are you in love with her?” “How did you know?” “It’s the gifts you bought.” Angelicus felt a little embarrassed. “Oh.” “Plus, it’s written all over your face.” He wiped his tears away, but they kept coming. “She’ll never want me. To her, I’m just her buddy. Besides, she’s already got a boyfriend she loves.” “That boyfriend of hers threatened her. He’s an asshole, and I don’t think she’s in love with him anymore. He really hurt her, and quite frankly, I wanna hurt him.” “Maybe I should back off for a while.” “No. Be there for her. She needs you. She needs us. I believe that you’d be a way better boyfriend for her.” “I don’t think I should rush in.” “I think you should do what your heart tells you. Maybe you guys gettin’ together will make things better for her, because she’ll finally have a man in her life who really loves her.” Lillian took Angelicus’ hand. “Come on. Let’s go see if we can find a card for her.”
Well, the shopping trip was a success. The whole group had bought many gifts for Candi, including balloons, teddy bears, flowers, cards, dolls, candies, and even an Irish chocolate cake. They all walked to Candi’s house. She didn’t live very far from the church and the mall, so the walk was easy, even if they had lots to carry. When they arrived, Lillian rang the doorbell. Candi did not answer. She was in bed, resting. “She’s not home,” Brie worried. “Oh, no, no, she is,” Lillian reassured everyone. “I think she’s resting. We can just go in.” So, they entered the house, and they saw just how beautifully Candi had decorated it. “Wow, this is lovely!” Anne sighed. In the foyer, there was an Irish shamrock clock on the wall, and paintings of angels, hung up everywhere else. “Hello?!” Lillian called. “Candi, it’s Lillian!” “And… everyone else!” Natasha called. Candi slowly came down the stairs in her nightdress. “Oh! Hi, everyone!” “Hi, Candi,” said Amy and Audrey. “How’re you feeling?” asked Andrew. “Awful,” Candi replied. “What are you all doing here?” “We bought you some presents,” said Ben. Everyone sauntered into the living room, and they laid all the gifts out on the furniture, except for the balloons, which floated in the air. Candi gasped. “Awwwww! You bought all these presents for me?!” “I paid for them,” Lillian replied. “We hope you feel better,” added Méav. “Awwww, thank you so much, everyone!” Candi wept. “Thank you so much. I love each of you with all my heart.” “When will you be back?” asked Melissa. “As soon as my test results are in, I’ll come back. No matter what, I’ll come back. Even if I’m extremely ill, I won’t let any of you down.”
Candi to the Rescue
That rainy evening, Candelaria decided to take a ride through town, to visit some of her friends from the choir. She stopped at Teresa’s house first, got out of her car, and rang the doorbell. Teresa was just laying out an outfit to wear the next day. “I’m coming!” she called, running down the stairs, and quickly opening the front door. “Hey, Candi.” “Hi,” Candi greeted. “What’s up?” “Is your sister home?” “Yeah, she’s in the shower. She should be out any second. Why?” “I thought I’d come over, and help you two sort things out.” “Are you serious?” Teresa was touched. “I would be more than happy to.” “She’s almost done.” “Okay. We’ll wait in the kitchen.” “Okay, cool.” They both strolled into the kitchen, and Candi sat at the table. “Um, are you thirsty?” Teresa asked politely. “Can I get you something to drink?” “Water, please.” “Oky-doky.” Teresa poured Candi a glass of water as her mother, Ellen, walked into the kitchen. “Oh, I didn’t know we had company,” said Ellen. “Who are you?” “Mom, this is Candi,” said Teresa, placing the water on the table. “She’s my church choir director.” “Oh! It’s so nice to meet you!” “Hello,” Candi said with a sweet smile. Then, Dominique came into the kitchen, wearing a bathrobe. “You must be Teresa’s sister,” said Candi. “Yeah. Who are you?” Dominique asked in a very sleepy tone of voice. “I’m Teresa’s choir director, Candi.” “Oh, hi.” “Dominique, will you please have a seat? Teresa and I need to talk to you.” Dominique was a little confused. “Um, okay.” She and Ellen both sat down. “What?” “Teresa, Sweetie, tell Dominique what you told me.” Teresa took a deep breath. “Um, Doe? Um, I kinda feel… invisible around you,” she said very nervously. “In…visible?” inquired a puzzled Dominique. “What do you mean?” “It’s like… you’re the star of the family. You never really pay any attention to me, and I feel really, um, left out. Like, I always go to your pageants and
plays, but you never come to any of my choir concerts. And, we never talk. I feel like I don’t even know my own sister, and it makes me sad.” Dominique rolled her eyes. “Really?” “Dominique, Sweetheart, it took your sister a lot of courage to say what she just said,” Candi chimed in. “She feels like you don’t know she exists, because you get all the attention. She’s lonely. She needs her big sister.” Ellen frowned sympathetically. “Teresa, I had no idea you felt this way.” “I tried to tell you, Mom,” Teresa said, almost crying. “I’m so sorry.” Ellen turned to Dominique. “I think it’s time you start paying more attention to your sister. Honey, you’re both missing out on something extremely important.” “Sisters will always have their differences,” added Candi, “but the bond they share is so significant. She always gives you the love and attention you deserve. You should do the same for her, and you should at least try to be her friend. She needs you.” Tears poured out of Teresa’s eyes. “I do need you, Doe. I miss you, and I love you so much. I wanna get closer to you, and I really, really want you to come to my next concert.” Dominique didn’t say a word. Ellen puppy dog pouted. “Doe, won’t you at least try? For Mommy?” “Okay, I’ll try,” Dominique sighed. “That’s the spirit, Honey.” Dominique and Teresa shook hands. “Thanks,” Teresa sniffled. “Well, I better get going,” said Candi, standing up, and heading out of the kitchen. “Okay, Candi,” said Ellen. “Thanks for coming to talk to us.” “You’re welcome.” Teresa followed Candi to the front door. “Candi?” Candi turned to Teresa. “Thanks for everything,” she sobbed. Candi hugged Teresa. “Oh, Sweetheart, it was no bother at all.” She held her for a moment. “I want you to know how proud I am of you, stepping up, and telling your sister how you felt. That must’ve been scary, but you had the courage anyway. I’m so proud of you.” “I couldn’t have done it without you.” “God bless you, my friend, and if you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to call me. Please.” “Thank you so much.” “I’ll see you soon.” “Bye, Candi.” With that, Candi left, and drove off to William’s house. Meanwhile, William was pacing outside his daughter’s room. She was lying in her bed. “Daddy?” she whispered.
William stopped in his tracks. “Abigail?” He peered in to see that she was awake, and crying. “Dear, is everything alright?” He sauntered in, and knelt by Abigail’s bed. “What’s the matter?” “I’m so sorry,” she wept. “For what?” “For leaving you.” “Darling, it’s not your fault.” Just then, the doorbell rang. “I’ll be right back.” He calmly marched down the stairs to answer the door. “Candi, what are you doing here?” “I came to see you and your daughter,” Candi replied. “Come in. She’s upstairs.” Abigail sat up in bed as William entered the room again, followed by Candi. “Look who came to see you,” said William. Abigail looked up, and was surprised to see Candi. “Candi?” “Abbie.” Candi approached the bed. “How are you feeling?” “Guilty,” Abigail sobbed. Candi climbed in the bed with Abigail, and put her arm around her. “Why?” “I’m dying. I’m leaving my father all alone!” Abigail cried. “I don’t want to! I can’t leave him!” “But, you’re not leaving him, Baby.” “Yes, I am, and I don’t want to! He’s already lost mom!” She hid her face in her hands, and cried heavy tears. “It’s not fair!” William hugged his heart-shattered daughter. “Darling, you’re not leaving me alone.” “He’s right, Sweetheart,” agreed Candi. “No one loved is ever lost, and you are loved so much. Abbie, your body may die, but everything else of yours won’t. Your spirit will never be gone. You’ll be your father’s angel in heaven.” “I will mourn for a while,” added William, “just like I mourned over your mother, but I won’t be alone. You’ll always have a special place, right here.” He pointed to his heart. Candi gently stroked Abigail’s back. “God has blessed us all with that special gift to communicate with a loved one through your heart, even when they’re not physically there. Do you believe in God? Heaven? The angels?” “Yes,” Abigail answered. “Then, know that you’ll be one of those angels in heaven, with God.” “I’m still scared of dying. I’m only eighteen.” “I know, Sweetheart, but God will immediately take your hand, and lead you to heaven. You’ll be in a better place. Nothing can harm you in heaven.” “And, I’ll see Mom?” “Yes. And, down here, we’ll all be thinking of you, praying for you, and we’ll always love you.” “Always,” added William. “I have a friend,” said Candi. “She’s also a cancer patient.”
“How is she doing?” asked Abigail. “She won’t make it, either.” “I’m so sorry.” “But, she says she’s looking forward to heaven. She’s not afraid anymore.” “She’s really brave.” “Yes, she is.” “What kind of cancer does she have?” “Colon.” “Aww.” “She said to me, ‘I’ve learned to accept it. Death is a frightening concept, but it’s going to happen for me. I’ve learned to look on the bright side. I’ll be going to a better place. I’ll see all my family that has passed on, and I’ll see my late husband.’” Abigail was amazed. “Wow.” “Does that make you feel any better?” Abigail smiled. “A lot.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not afraid anymore.” “I’m glad, Sweetheart.” “Me, too,” said William, kissing Abigail’s forehead. “But, when I do die, Daddy, will you hold my hand?” Abigail asked sweetly. “Yes, of course, I will, Darling.” “Thank you, Daddy.” “No. Thank you for bringing so much joy into my life, and for the joy you’ll bring to others from heaven.” “Aww, Daddy, I love you,” Abigail wept, giving her father a big hug, and a sweet kiss on the cheek. William held her tightly, and he, too, cried. “I love you, too, Darling. I love you very much.” Candi’s eyes filled with tears, and she placed her hand on her heart. “Bless you,” she whispered. “Bless you both.”
On Friday morning, Candi was reading through all the cards from her choir friends. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she read the sweet messages they wrote to her. Then, she came across the card from Angelicus. “’Dear Candelaria, you’re an angel sent from the heavens above. You’re as pure as the ocean. You’re as beautiful as an Irish sunset, and you have the voice of an Irish angel. You’re as sweet as candy, which I know is the reason why everyone calls you Candi, and you bring light to everyone’s life, which I know is the reason why your full name is Candelaria Solas. I don’t think I could live another day without you. I know we’re just friends, but I don’t think I can handle that anymore. I wanna be more than just a friend to you. The truth is, I’ve been crazy about you, ever since we first met, when you came to America. When I looked at you, my very first impression was that you had to be an angel. You couldn’t be just any human being. My instincts were right. You are a real angel. Every time I see you, I can’t help myself. I just wanna hold you tight, and never let go. I wanna feel you holding me, because your embrace is warm and sweet. You’re everything to me. I know. I’m probably creeping you out with this dumb card, but I had to say how I’m feeling before I missed my chance, and you ended up with someone else. I hope you feel the same way as I do, but if you don’t, I’ll understand. Please get well soon. I don’t want you to suffer any more pain. I love you. Love, Angelicus.’” Candi suddenly burst into a flood of tears, as she hugged the card in her arms. Then, she left to visit Vicky. When she arrived, she handed the card to Vicky. Vicky read it, and smiled. “Oh, well, isn’t that sweet?” she sighed. “I’ve never been so touched, and so scared at the same time,” Candi responded. “Scared? Why?” “I’ve already hurt one boyfriend, and I’ve lost his love and trust. I don’t want to do anything to hurt Angelicus, too.” Vicky looked puzzled. “Did you hear about what happened with Gabriel?” “Yes, I did!” Vicky snapped. “That damn idiot! When I found out what he did to you, I wanted to jump right out of this bed, and go knock the sense back into him that God gave him a long time ago, which he obviously neglected.” “How did you find out?” “Lillian told me. She came in here on Monday evenin’, after she’d finished with the choir, and told me everything. She was mad as hell, and so was I.” “I feel like it was my fault.” “Why?” Vicky asked sympathetically. “Honey, you’re not to blame. You didn’t spill the beans.” “Maybe I did.” “Honey, if you did, you’d remember, but you’re not the kind of person to tell someone’s personal secrets.”
“I don’t know.” Candi changed the subject. “But, what should I do about Angelicus?” “Well, the first question is, do you love him?” “Yes.” “Do you looove him, love him, or just love him as a friend?” Candi thought for a moment. “I love him, love him. I read the card, and it was as if he were reading my mind, or wanting what I wanted. I feel the exact same way about him, but I’m just afraid of hurting him.” “Now, Honey, that’s not possible. I’ve known you for a long time, and you’d never hurt a fly. I know, because I once saw a fly crawl on you. You just let it sit there.” “All life is precious to me.” “See? You’re as sweet as pie.” Candi giggled. “Why don’t you just tell him how much you love him? Take a chance, and see what happens when you do.” Candi inhaled. “Alright.” Then, she exhaled. “You’re a brave lady.” “So are you, Sweetheart.” “You know, you’re like a daughter to me, and a sister to Alana.” “Awww, and you’re like a second mother to me.” Vicky chuckled. “Now, you have two mamas.” Candi giggled again. “What a sweet blessing.” “I know. Isn’t it?” Candi smiled sweetly at Vicky. “Now, you go tell him how you feel. I’ll be prayin’ for you.” “Thank you, Vicky, and may God be with you.” “You, too, Darlin’.” Candi and Vicky hugged. Then, Candi left the hospital, to visit Angelicus. She stood outside of his house for a while before she got up enough courage to knock on the door. She took deep breaths as he answered it. “Hey, Candi,” Angelicus greeted. “Angelicus?” “Yeah?” “May I talk to you?” “Sure. Come on in.” They both headed into the living room, and sat on the couch. “What’s up?” inquired Angelicus. “I read your card.” “And?” Angelicus trembled. “I had no idea you felt this way about me. After I finished reading it, I cried, because what you said touched me so much. While I read your message, it felt as if you could read what was in my heart, because I want the same things you want. I do love you, too. I’m just afraid of hurting you, like I hurt Gabriel.”
“You didn’t do anything to that punk. Candi, I know you won’t do anything to hurt me, and even if you did, I’m a lot more forgiving. It takes a lot for a girlfriend to piss me off.” “Are you sure?” “Duh.” Candi giggled. “Candi, nothing you do will hurt me. I trust you, and I love you. I know you. We’ve been best friends for eight years, and you never did anything to hurt me. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. Ever! Ever, ever, ever, ever!” Candi laughed. “Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever—“ “Oh, you!” Candi wrapped her arm around Angelicus. “So?” “I think I’ll take a chance, and see where love takes us.” “So far, it’s taking me to heaven,” Angelicus flirted. Candi blushed. “Awww, stop it. You’re so cute!” “You’re cuter.” Candi wrapped both arms around Angelicus, and rested her head on his shoulder. “Aww, I love you, Angelicus Quintin.” “I love you, too, Candelaria Solas.” They snuggled up, in each other’s arms, kissing passionately.
On Monday morning, Lillian was having breakfast at Candi’s house. “Have you heard anything from the doctor yet?” asked Lillian. Candi shook her head. “Not yet. Like he said, it would take a few days.” “I know. I just didn’t expect it to take this long.” Lillian sighed, worried. “I hope you’re okay. I don’t know what I’d do without my best friend.” Candi hugged Lillian. “You’ll never be without me.” “Oh, girl!” Lillian squealed. “Stop it. You gon’ make me cry!” “Aww.” While they were eating, the paperboy knocked on the door. “I’ll get it,” said Lillian, jumping out of her seat. “You stay here.” She rushed to the door, and took the paper. “Thank you,” she said to the paperboy, as he closed the door behind him. Lillian stood in the foyer, and read the front page. She turned redder than a tomato when she read it! “Oh, no,” she mumbled, slamming the paper against her legs, and running back into the kitchen, furiously! “Candi, you are not gonna believe this!” she roared. “Ooh, I have never been so pissed off by a newspaper in my life!” “What is it?” asked a concerned Candi. “Here.” Lillian hesitantly handed the paper to Candi. Candi read the front page. “’Miami’s Irish Angel Is a Fraud.’” Lillian leaned over the paper, and read it with her. “’Candelaria Solas tells all of Miami that Billy Moore is a homosexual loser with an uncircumcised penis?!’” Lillian slammed the paper on the table. “Okay, first of all, that is the worst lead I have ever read! Second of all, this ain’t newsworthy. You know why? It’s a lie!!” she screamed, slamming her hand on the table, and accidentally knocking her glass off the table. “I’m so sorry!” “No, no, it’s okay,” Candi replied, holding back tears. “Serves me right.” She got up from the table, and went to her room, crying. “Candi?!” Lillian called after her. It was no use. She sighed angrily, ran into Candi’s study, and rifled through the desk for the phone book. She flipped through the pages, until she found the address she was looking for. Then, she stashed the book back in the drawer, grabbed her car keys, and ran out of the house. She sped down the street, until she pulled into the driveway of the house she was looking for. She hurried to the front door, and rang the doorbell repeatedly, until a blonde lady answered. “Yes?” inquired the lady. “Is Gabriel home?” “Uh, he’s still in bed.” “Are you his mother?” “Yes. I’m Mrs. Lederman.” “I think you should read this.” Lillian handed Mrs. Lederman the front page of the newspaper. “He and his friends wrote that. They slandered my best friend. I thought you should know.”
Mrs. Lederman read the article in utter shock. “I can’t believe this!” she exclaimed. “Candelaria would never do that!” “You know her?” “Yes, and it’s such a blessing to know someone like her.” Mrs. Lederman wiped tears from her eyes. “I can’t believe my own son would do something like this.” “Has he always been like this?” “No. Come in.” Lillian followed Mrs. Lederman into her office, and closed the door. “I named him Gabriel for a reason. When he was born, I felt like he was a gift from God, and he was, up until he reached high school. He used to be so good and kind to others, and he was a strong believer. He loved God so much, and he loved life. He was my perfect, little angel. I never expected him to stay a little boy forever, but I always hoped he would at least keep all that love and faith in his heart. Then, when he was about fifteen, he lost his dad. My husband was a soldier in the U.S. Army, and he was shot and killed. Gabriel was crushed when he died. He kept praying and praying for his dad to come home again, but then, he lost all his faith in God. He lost that sweet spirit, and… he wasn’t the same person after that.” She wiped more tears away. “I never expected him to do something like this, though. I knew he had problems, but I didn’t know he was this unstable.” Lillian’s eyes filled with tears, too. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, consoling Mrs. Lederman. She dried her tears. “I’m sorry. I better contain myself before he sees me like this.” “I’m so sorry for you.” “It’s okay, Lillian. I’ll talk to him, and thank you for telling me this.” Gabriel was coming downstairs, just as his mother and Lillian exited the office. “Hey, Mom, Lillian.” Lillian just pulled an ugly face, gave Gabriel the evil eye, and blew a livid raspberry at him. “What are you doing here?” Lillian didn’t answer. She just blew another raspberry at him. Then, she stormed out of the house. Gabriel looked at his mother, confused. “What was that all about?” Mrs. Lederman just rolled her eyes. “You tell me.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “She told me about the story you put in the newspaper.” “What are you talking about?” “Don’t play dumb with me.” She grabbed a copy of the newspaper, and held it up. “Wanna explain this?” “Candelaria’s a bitch.” “Oh, shut up!” she shouted. “How could you slander her like that?! Candelaria would never say stuff like that! Why did you do this to her?!” “She did say stuff like that!” Gabriel shouted back. “Shut up! Stop making excuses!”
“Yes, Mrs. Cleaver,” Gabriel said sarcastically. She angrily slapped him. “Oww!” he shrieked. “I cannot believe you did this. That is not how I raised you, Gabriel. What happened to you? You never used to treat people this way. Ever since your father died, you’ve been a completely different person, and you’ve gotten worse.” “I can’t stay a little boy forever, Mom!” “I didn’t expect you to, but I also didn’t expect you to lose that sweet spirit you had. You used to be so kind. You used to believe in God, and you loved life so much. I don’t know where that young man went, but I want him back. For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of your actions.” And so, she stormed into her room, leaving Gabriel, just standing there in anger, sadness, and shock.
Later, Lillian met with the choir for another rehearsal. “Hey, y’all,” she sighed sadly. “Before we rehearse, did y’all see the front page of the newspaper? Candi’s ex-boyfriend slandered her really bad. If you didn’t hear about it, I’m not repeating what the article said, not in the church. It was real nasty.” “I read it,” said a distressed Angelicus. “It was pretty bad. It made me really angry. I ripped the article out, and set it on fire.” The others laughed. “You did the right thing,” Lillian chuckled. “Did anyone else see it?” About eighty percent of the choir raised their hands. “How did you react when you read it, and what are your feelings on this kind of abuse?” “I was downright mad,” said Anne. “People like that shouldn’t even be allowed near a newspaper, let alone a computer.” “I balled the paper up, and threw it across the room!” Brie laughed. “Did any of you believe what was written, even for a second?” asked Lillian. Everyone shook their heads. “Good, because Candi would never do something like that. I don’t know who started the rumour about Billy, but I think they should take responsibility. They need to confess that they started this rumour, not Candi, and issue an apology.” Everyone nodded their heads in agreement. Meanwhile, Máiréad was with Candi, while Dr. Ford came to visit. “So, I suppose you’ve read that awful article?” inquired Máiréad. “Yes,” said the doctor. “Didn’t believe it for a second.” “Neither did I.” “Uh, Candi, your results are in.” “And?” said Candi. “I’m afraid I have some not-so-good news for you.” “Oh, no,” Máiréad worried. “What is it?” “Candi…” He hesitated. “It’s Myocarditis, a form of congestive heart failure.” “What?!” Máiréad’s mouth dropped. “I’m very sorry to the both of you. However, we are searching for a heart donor. Until then, you may go back to rehearsing with the choir, but please take your cell phone with you, in case we need to contact you.” Dr. Ford knelt down. “Candi, we’ll do our very best to save your life. I promise.” Máiréad burst into tears. “I’m sorry. I lost my husband to heart failure.” “I’m very sorry, Máiréad.” “Please don’t let me lose my baby girl, too.” “We’ll do our best for you.” “Thank you so much.”
Candi and Máiréad gave Dr. Ford a big, group hug, and shook his hand. As he was about to exit, he stopped. “If anything should happen, please don’t hesitate to call.” Then, he exited.
Never Forgive Me Father
During the night, several nightmares kept Candi awake. So many horrible thoughts flowed through her mind, and her heart was in so much pain. She drowned in a cornucopia of dreadful emotions—sadness, guilt, fright, and even inner sickness. She placed her hands on her aching heart, and tearfully stared out the window. “God?” she sighed. “I’m not an angel. I’m not a saint. I’m not the wonderful person people think I am. I don’t know how it happened, but… somehow, I must’ve done all those horrible things to Billy. I must’ve! How else would you explain it? I guess I deserve my illness.” She wept, and let her tears fall into her lap. “I feel like such a peacach—a horrid sinner!” She sobbed harder. “I hate myself. I hate myself!” She buried her head in her blankets. “I’ve caused enough pain already. I might as well let my heart fail. Oh, God, I’m so sorry!” she bawled. “Tá brón orm! Never forgive me!” Although she didn’t want to, she fell asleep again, and she tossed and turned, all night, throughout the abundant nightmares. The rain poured heavily, drenching her, as she sleepwalked into the backyard. She lie down under a tree, and she let the rain soak her, as she continued tossing, turning, and bawling deeply through her nightmares. The next day, Candelaria stood before her group with a grief-stricken heart. “Yesterday, the doctor came by with my results, and… there’s no easy way to say this.” She inhaled slowly, and exhaled quickly. “It’s heart failure.” Every jaw in the room dropped, and not a single eye kept dry. “He said that he could try to find a donor, and I’ll be alright.” Everyone sighed in relief. “Unfortunately… I won’t be undergoing the procedure. I’ve decided not to go through it.” “Why?” asked Méav. “I don’t think I should.” “Darlin’, I know it might be scary,” said Anne, “but if you can be cured, and saved from death, it’s worth the small amount of pain you have to go through.” “I’m not afraid of the surgery.” “Then, what’s wrong?” “I’ve sinned horribly, and I feel I don’t deserve to be cured.” “Why would you say that?” asked a shocked Gabriella. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” “I did.” “You still blame yourself for what happened to Billy?” Candi nodded. “Why? You didn’t do anything to him.” “But, how can you be so sure? I must’ve done it. Without knowing, I must have.” “Because, I know you,” Gabriella emphasised, “and you, Candelaria Solas, are no sinner. You would never do something that stupid. I mean, yeah, we all make mistakes, but just because Gabriel thinks you did it, doesn’t mean
it’s true. Please, if the doctor finds a heart donor, get the surgery over with!” She started to cry. “Please don’t let yourself go! I’m begging you!” “Candi, you don’t know what an amazing person you are,” Candida chimed in. “You made me feel welcome in America,” added Luciana. “I was terrified of being in a new place—afraid of being alone, but you were always a friend to me.” “You helped me realise how loved I am,” said Nicolaj. “Remember? I wanted to commit suicide, because I felt like everyone hated me. You made me feel so loved.” “Not to mention what you did for my daughter,” said William. “She’s no longer wallowing in her cancer. She’s living the rest of her life to the fullest… because of you.” “Candi, girl, you did a lot for us,” said Natasha. “I don’t care what that dumb bachagaloop says about you. I know for sure you ain’t no sinner.” Mitch laughed. “Dude, what’s so funny?” asked Brandon. “’Dumb bachagaloop!’” laughed Mitch. “Have you been watching The Golden Girls?” Natasha laughed. “Yeah. I love Sophia.” “Me, too.” “The point is, you’re a saint,” said Brittany, “and that idiot is wrong about you. Don’t blame yourself for stuff you didn’t do.” “Please, Candi, don’t do it,” Hayley begged. Tears poured from Candi’s eyes. “I’m sorry. I have to.” “Will you still be around to help us rehearse for the concert?” asked a saddened Brie. “Of course. I’ll be rehearsing with all of you, until I die, because I want to spend the rest of my time with the ones I love so much.” Every eye filled with many tears as Candi went around the room, placing a soft, sweet kiss on each cheek, and embracing everyone with her sweet, angel hugs. “I love you all… so much,” she sobbed.
Rest in Peace Victoria
That evening, after dinner, Candi drove to the hospital, to visit Vicky. Meanwhile, Alana peered into Vicky’s room, checking on her. “Ma? Can I get you anything?” She saw that her mother was sleeping, but not moving. “Ma?” She walked in, worried. “Ma, are you okay?” She bent over Vicky. “Ma?” she panicked, pressing her ear against Vicky’s mouth. “Oh, my God.” No breath. “Ma!” she shouted. “Wake up! Ma, please! Wake up!” She cried hysterically. “Ma, please don’t leave me!” She sunk her face under her mother’s arm. “Oh, Ma, please don’t go. I need you. Please.” Candi walked in, and saw Alana, crying her heart out. She gently stroked her back, and wrapped an arm around her neck. “Alana, Baby, are you okay?” she asked very sweetly. Alana looked up at Candi—her face soaking wet in tears. “She’s gone, Candi. She died.” Candi consoled Alana, holding her in her arms, and wiping away pouring tears. “I’m so sorry, Baby.” “Why did it have to be my mother?!” Alana bawled. “Damn it, why?!” “She suffered so much. God didn’t want her in anymore pain than she was already in, so he took her to heaven, where she would be safe.” Candi played with Alana’s hair. “Your mother is in a better place. She can rest in peace now, and she’ll be your angel. She’s watching over you… this very moment. She’s everywhere you go, because she’s right here.” She pointed to Alana’s chest. “She’s in your heart… always.” Alana dried her tears. “So, did you hear from the doctor yet?” “Yes.” “What did he say?” “I’m not sure you want to know.” “No. I do. Please tell me.” “It’s heart failure.” Alana cried even more. “Oh, my God. Not you, too!” “He said he’d look for a heart donor for me.” “Oh, thank God,” Alana sighed, relieved. “But, I won’t accept it. I can’t.” Alana tried to hold back even more tears. “But, let’s not talk about me anymore.” “But, Candi, I can’t lose you, too!” Alana cried. “I already lost both my parents in one year! I need you!” “I’m sorry,” Candi sniffled. Just then, Alana turned around to see a folded letter on her mother’s bed. “That wasn’t there before,” she said, confused, as she picked it up, and opened it. “Oh, let me see,” said Candi. Alana gave the note to Candi.
Candi sat down with Alana, still holding her, and she read the note. “’Dear Alana, please don’t cry for me. Saying goodbye to this world wasn’t easy, but God couldn’t watch me suffer anymore. I’m in his hands now, but I’m still with you in spirit. I’m watching you from above, and seeing you so sad is breaking my heart. I hate to see you cry, so I thought this might make you smile again. My body may be physically dead, but I’m not. I’m still there, in your heart, following you wherever you go. I will never leave your side, no matter what you do. I’m in your heart for an eternity. I will bless you with all the love I have for you, and so will God. Just keep believin’, and remember. I love you. Love, Mama.’” Alana continued to weep, but this time, she smiled. “She sent that to me from heaven?” she wondered, astounded. “I think she did, because that letter wasn’t there when I came in.” “Wow.” “Your mother lived a fabulous life, full of love and laughter, but then, she became ill. God didn’t want her to suffer anymore, so he led her to the gates of a better, happier world, where pain doesn’t exist. She’s watching you from where she is, and she follows you everywhere. She’ll never be gone. Do you feel her in your heart?” “Yeah.” “I know it’s not easy when someone you love dies. I know. I lost my father when I was only seventeen years old. He died of heart failure. The doctors couldn’t find a donor in time.” “I’m sorry.” “I was heartbroken when he died, but I still hear his voice quite often. I feel his presence. Every time I look at his picture, it’s like he’s still alive. So, find a picture of your mother that’s really special to you, and keep it close to your heart. Look at it, and it’ll feel like she’s still alive.” Alana smiled through her tears. “Wow,” she said breathlessly. “You always take a bad situation, and turn it into something beautiful, like a poem. I love the way you look at life.” “It’s how I was raised. My parents were both optimistic people. I guess it sort of rubbed off on me.” “Well, thank God for that.” Candi giggled. “There aren’t very many people like you in this world anymore.” Candi sighed heavily. “I don’t know what kind of person I am, Alana. I did a horrible thing to someone who trusted me.” “I saw the paper, the other day. I didn’t believe it. What kind of sick bastard would write something like that?” “My ex-boyfriend.” “Well, I can see why he’s your ex-boyfriend. If a guy treated me like that, I’d kick his ass.” “I’m not into that sort of thing.” “I know. I’m just saying what I would do.” Candi and Alana both laughed. “Are you okay now?” Candi asked sweetly.
“Yeah. I feel much better.” “How about I help you bury your mother?” Alana thought for a moment. “Would they let us bury her outside the church you go to?” “Yes, actually. They have a special burial ground behind the church, where loved ones are buried.” “Oh, good. I can’t stand the thought of cremating my mother.” “Me, either.” And so, Alana and Candi picked out a beautiful sarcophagus of pure gold and silver. Candi even planned the funeral herself, and so many people who loved Vicky dearly, came to the ceremony. Everyone leaned over the coffin, and let their tears fall on Vicky’s angelic body. Yes, even in death, Vicky was still so beautiful. Alana and Candi buried Sweet Victoria behind the church, and they planted flowers in her grave—mixed zinnias to be exact. Mixed zinnias mean “In memory of an absent friend.” On the gravestone, they wrote “In Memory of a Southern Angel Bell Named Victoria.” Alana knelt by her mother’s grave. “Rest in peace, Ma. May God be with you.”
One afternoon, Gabriel was taking a walk along the road, near his house, when an angry Lillian ran up to him, and grabbed his arm out of the blue. “Oww!” Gabriel screamed, turning to see who had grabbed him. “What the hell is wrong with you, bitch?!” “I should be askin’ you the same question,” Lillian snapped. “And, what’s that supposed to mean?” “How dare you accuse my best friend of somethin’ she didn’t do! How dare you call her a fraud, and how dare you slander her!” “She is a fake!” “No, she isn’t! She did not leak your friend’s secret, and she sure as hell did not say he was a homosexual loser with an uncircumcised penis! I can’t even believe you’d say that about her!” “She’s the only one who knew Billy was gay! How else would you explain it?!” “Ever heard of eavesdropping? Maybe someone was eavesdropping on him when he told Candi his secret.” “Oh, right, and I’m sure they called him a homosexual—“ “Duh!” interrupted Lillian. “Look, I have known Candi for eight freakin’ years, ever since she came to America, and she has never, not once, betrayed my trust, done anything to hurt me, or proven herself to be fake! She was always there for me, like a sister. When my mama had a heart attack, I was so scared she’d die. Candi held my hand the entire time! In fact, she slept over at my house, until Mama came out of that hospital, safe and sound. Not once did she leave my side. Everywhere I went, she went with me. She even stood right outside the door when I had to go to the bathroom, and she prayed, nonstop, for Mama to get better. When Mama did get better, and came home, Candi took care of her, until she was fully back on her feet. She waited on my mama, hand and foot. My mama said she didn’t have to, but Candi insisted. She waited on her, constantly, and never made a single complaint. Now, if you still think she’s fake after that, you got some serious problems!” Lillian paused for a few seconds, and started to cry. “Now, I’m takin’ care of Candi.” “Why?” “She’s sick.” “Sick?” “Yeah, sick.” “Exactly… how sick?” Gabriel stammered. “She’s dying.” “What?!” he exclaimed, shocked. “She’s in congestive heart failure!” Lillian wept. “The doctors are looking for donors, but now, because of all the crap you put her through, she doesn’t even wanna live anymore! She wants to reject the operation! She’s blaming herself for all the bull you accused her of!” Gabriel suddenly felt guilty.
“Gabriel, she wants to die, because of you and your stupid friends, and I don’t want her to die!” “I’m so sorry, Lillian,” Gabriel said sadly. “I wanna prove to you she ain’t a fake. Come on.” Lillian took Gabriel’s hand, and led him to the church, where Candi was rehearsing with the choir. “I want you to see her with that choir,” said Lillian. So, they both sat in the church, watching Candi and the choir at the altar. Candi put so much enthusiasm, energy, and spirit into her conducting, and the people in the choir sang like angels! Gabriel was absolutely dumbfounded by Candi’s ability to reach so many people at once! A sudden storm of guilt and shame struck his heart, especially after hearing her sing some of the notes from the music, to help the choir. He hung his head, and wept deeply. “Oh, God. What have I done?” he grieved. “I’m such an idiot.”
Righting All Wrongs
Very late, that night, Gabriel lie awake, thinking about the horrible way he treated Candi. He sat at his desk, with a pencil and paper in front of him, trying to write a letter to her. He couldn’t seem to find the write words to say to her. He slammed the pencil down, and rested his head on the desk. While he tried to think of what to write, he heard the doorbell ring. He immediately rushed to the front door, and answered it. There, he saw Billy’s exgirlfriend. “Katie, what are you doing here?” he asked, surprised. “Gabriel, I have to talk to you,” Katie said frantically. “Can’t it wait?” “No, it can’t.” “Okay.” Gabriel stepped outside, and closed the front door. “What’s up?” “Gabriel, Candelaria did not spread Billy’s secret all over town. I know who did.” In the morning, Gabriel and his friends gathered outside of Billy’s house. “Guys, Candi’s not the one who spread the rumour about Billy,” said Gabriel. “She’s not a fake or a fraud. She’s a good person, and I was wrong about her. We were wrong about her. I found out who the real perpetrator is.” Katie stepped forward. “It was me!” she announced. Everyone else gasped. “I’m sorry,” she said tearfully. “I should’ve told you earlier. I heard Billy tell his secret to Candi, and I was so angry about losing him. I was angry he led me on the way he did, and I told his secret. I also started that rumour about him being a loser with an uncircumcised penis, and I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt Candi, but you guys shouldn’t have automatically blamed her. Look at what we all put her through! She doesn’t deserve this. She doesn’t deserve any of this hell. I mean, come on. I started a rumour, and you all accused her of starting it. Now, she’s dying.” She scoffed, frustrated. “Come on, guys.” With that, the story of who really started the rumour was submitted to the papers, as well as a heartfelt apology to Candi, from Gabriel, his friends, and Katie. Afterwards, Gabriel headed off to Candi’s church, where he saw Brie, Chloe, Natasha, and Charlie, sitting together, on a bench, outside the church. “Hey, guys,” he said. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Dumb Bachagaloop himself!” Natasha scoffed. “What do you want?” Charlie snarled. “I need you guys’ help,” said Gabriel. Brie laughed. “Help you? After what you did to Candi? I don’t think so.” “You hurt someone we happen to love,” Chloe scolded. “What makes you think we’d want to help you?” “I know I hurt Candi. I was wrong. I know, but I’m trying to do something to make it up to her. I need your help, and the rest of the choir. I wanted to record an Irish song for her, but I can’t do it without a choir… and an orchestra. Please! I feel like an idiot, and I want Candi to know I still love her.”
“You’re too late,” Brie snarled. “She’s already dating Angelicus.” “I know, and he’s a way better boyfriend than I’ll ever be. I just want her to know that she’s still important to me, and I believe her.” “Alright, fine,” Natasha replied, annoyed. “We’ll help you.” Gabriel exhaled in relief. “Thanks, guys.” “How did you know Candi and Angelicus were dating?” asked Chloe. “Lillian told me.” Meanwhile, Angelicus was visiting Candi. They were snuggled up, under a blanket, on the sofa. He was kissing her softly. “Is there anything I can say to change your mind?” he asked. “I don’t know, Angel Face,” Candi replied sorrowfully. “After all I’ve done to poor Billy, accepting something so great as to be saved from a deadly disease, it’s too much.” “But, I love you, Candi. I don’t want you to let yourself go if you can be saved.” Angelicus held Candi tighter. “What if I asked you to do it for me? Then, would you do it?” Candi rested her head on Angelicus’ shoulder. “Maybe.” During their tender moment, they heard a knock on the front door. “I’ll get it,” said Angelicus, as he got up, and hurried out. He came back in, seconds later, followed by Katie. “Katie wants to talk to you.” “Hi, Katie,” Candi greeted cheerfully. “Hey, Candi Girl,” Katie greeted back, sitting next to Candi. “Look, I really need to talk to you. I have a confession to make.” “What’s wrong?” “I’m the one who told Billy’s secret, and I started that immature rumour about his penis. I’m really sorry I put you in this mess. I know you’ve been blaming yourself for it, but I swear. It wasn’t you. When Billy came to you, and told you he was gay, I was eavesdropping. I was so pissed off at him for leading me on, and pretending we had a future. I didn’t mean for you to get the blame. I am so sorry for all the trouble I caused for you, and Gabriel and his friends shouldn’t have automatically assumed it was your fault. I’ll totally understand if you never wanna forgive me, but I just thought I’d let you know that you’re not to blame.” Candi was not angry or bitter about the situation. She smiled sweetly, and gave Katie a warm hug. “Of course, I forgive you, Sweetheart!” “Aww, thank you, Candi! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” “Thank you for telling me the truth.” “I even told Gabriel, so you won’t get anymore guff from him and his gang. I promise. I even sent them on a guilt trip.” Candi and Katie laughed. “Oh, thank you, Katie,” Candi said gratefully. “I very much appreciate it.” “You’re welcome. So, have you heard from the doctors yet? Have they found a donor?” “Not yet.” “I hope they do.”
That night, Gabriel drove on down to the hospital, and marched up to the front desk. “Excuse me,” he said to the secretary. “I need to speak to Candelaria Solas’ doctor, please.” “May I have your name, sir?” asked the secretary. “Gabriel Lederman.” “Okay. Just a minute, Mr. Lederman.” The secretary picked up the phone, and called Dr. Ford. “Dr. Ford, a young man named Gabriel Lederman is here to see you.” Moments later, Dr. Ford came into the lobby, and approached Gabriel. “Sir? Did you wanna talk to me about something?” “Yes. I wanted to talk to you about Candelaria Solas. Have you found a donor for her yet?” “We’re working on that.” “I wanted to see if I matched her blood type, so I could be the donor.” “I can’t let you do that, not just like that. I mean, we’re talking about risking your life.” “I would risk anything for Candi! Look, I know you have rules, but I have my reasons. I’ve caused way too much pain in her life, and she didn’t deserve that. I spread so many stupid lies about her. I stayed up all night, last night, trying to think of ways to make things right for her again, and the best thing I came up with was letting her live. Please. I don’t want her to die. I think the whole world should get a chance to know what a saint she is.” Gabriel suddenly burst into heavy sobbing. “Please! Let me do this for her! Please! Oh, God, please, Dr. Ford!” He collapsed to his knees, and wept hysterically.
An Angel Heals Another Angel
Days later, Candi was rehearsing with her choir. “I have booked a special performance from the Celtic Saints. They will be singing a couple songs in our little program. Have any of you heard of them?” Half the choir raised their hands in excitement. “For those of you who haven’t, I think you will enjoy their music. I’ve also asked my mother to sing in the performance. I think all of you will enjoy that, as well as the audience. She has an absolutely beautiful voice. Also, just in case I get well, I have chosen a few solo songs to sing myself. Finally, a few days before the concert, everyone, including myself, the orchestra, you all, my mother, and the Celtic Saints will be rehearsing together.” Everyone murmured excitedly, and Candi’s cell phone rang. “Excuse me for a moment,” said Candi. “This might be my doctor.” She rushed into the bathroom, and answered her phone. “Hello? Yes, this is she. You have?! Oh, thank you so much! Okay, I’ll be there.” She laughed, thrilled. “Thank you! Okay, bye.” She hung up her phone, and sprinted back to the choir. “They found a donor,” she announced. Everyone cheered, screamed, applauded, and laughed, overjoyed at the wonderful news. “When’s your appointment?” asked Gabriella. “Tomorrow morning.” “You mean, you’re going? You’re really going?!” “Yes.” Everyone cheered again. Early, in the morning, Máiréad drove her daughter to the hospital for her operation. “Who’s the donor?” Máiréad asked the doctor when they walked into his office. “His name is Gabriel Lederman,” answered the surgeon, Dr. Andrews. Candi was overly shocked. “Gabriel?” “Yes. Dr. Ford said he came in, and begged to be the donor. Fortunately, he’s the perfect match for your blood type.” “May I please see him before the operation?” “Of course. Actually, he’s on his way here.” Coincidentally, Gabriel knocked on the door while they were talking about him. “Oh, he’s here!” Dr. Andrews laughed. Candi faced Gabriel in astonishment. “You’re my heart donor?” “Yes.” Gabriel sat on the bed, by Candi’s side. “Mrs. Solas, why don’t we give these two some privacy?” Dr. Andrews suggested. “Alright,” agreed Máiréad. “Let us know when you’re finished.” They left the room, and closed the door.
“Look, Candi, I was wrong about you,” said Gabriel. “I had no right to just blame you, and I was wrong about you being fake. You’re so not a fake. I know it’s too late for us to get back together, because you’re with Angelicus. In my opinion, you’re with who you should be with. I hope we can at least be friends, even if… after this surgery, I’ll be dead. I wanna be one of your guardian angels in heaven, because believe it or not, I really care about you. I think you’re so special. I truly regret the way I treated you. I know you’ll probably never forgive me, and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t forgive me.” Candi stroked Gabriel’s arm. “I forgive you, Gabriel, and I will forever be grateful that you saved my life. You’re an angel.” “Healing an angel.” Candi giggled sweetly. “An angel heals another angel.” Gabriel chuckled softly. “Yeah.” “You’ll always be one of my guardian angels, as well as my father, my grandmother, and so many others in heaven I love, and I love you. You’ll always be a friend to me.” “Even after all the crap I put you through?” “Oh, Gabriel, I’ve already forgiven you for that.” “I’m sorry for being such a dump bachagaloop.” Candi laughed. “Your friend, Natasha, is hilarious.” “Yes, she is. She’s adorable.” “Yeah, like you.” “Aww, and I forgive you for being a dumb bachagaloop.” She giggled. “My friends are sorry, too.” “I’ve already forgiven them.” “So, I guess this is it.” Gabriel took a deep, deep breath. Candi burst into tears, and threw her arms around him. “Oh, Gabriel, I’ll miss you so much!” Gabriel began to cry as well. “I’ll miss you, too, Candelaria Áilleacht Solas!” When Candi heard that, she cried even harder. “That sounded so beautiful… when you said my full name.” “You are beautiful, and always remember, I’m giving you a piece of me, so you can live.” “Oh, Gabriel! I’ll always carry you with me. Are you scared?” “Yes, but I would do anything to keep you alive. I swear to God. I would, even if it meant giving up my life.” “I would do the same for you if I could.” “I know.” Candi squeezed Gabriel tighter, and they both continued crying. “I guess it’s time. Goodbye, Candi,” Gabriel bawled as he held Candi so tightly, and kissed her cheek. “I love you.” Then, he reopened the door, and let Máiréad and Dr. Andrews back in. “Did you two get a proper goodbye?” Máiréad asked compassionately. “Yes, we did,” Candi sniffled.
After Candi and Gabriel gave their last hug, the doctors prepped them for surgery. Hours later, Candi woke up to see her huge family of sixty choir members, Gabriel’s friends, Katie, Lillian, Billy, and of course, Máiréad, standing around her bed. She was so moved. “You all came here for me?” “Of course,” said George, from the choir. “We wanted to see you get well again.” “You mean, you’ve been here the whole time?” “The whole time,” Andrew replied. “Hey, Candi,” Melanie greeted kindly. “How you feeling?” “I’m a little tired, but I feel alright.” “No pain?” inquired Teresa. “Absolutely no pain.” Candi smiled at everyone, and giggled sweetly and softly. “I’m so happy to be here with all of you around me. I feel like I’m surrounded by angels.” “Awwwwww!” everyone cooed. “I love you all so much.” Angelicus knelt by Candi’s bed, and gave her a coy smile. “Candi?” “Yes?” “Will you marry me?” Candi lost her breath. She looked into Angelicus’ eyes, threw her arms around him, and kissed him passionately. “Yes, my sweet Angelicus! Yes! I will marry you!” Everyone cheered for the happy couple. “And, to all my choir members, I have chosen one more song for all of us to do together, and it’ll be the very last song in the program.” The applause continued as a nurse walked in, carrying a gift bag. “Candelaria Solas?” “Yes?” Candi answered. “I was told to give this to you.” “Oh?” “It’s from Gabriel Lederman. He told me to give this to you after you wake up, so here you are.” The nurse placed the bag on Candi’s lap. “Aww, thank you,” Candi said with a shimmering lilt in her voice. She dug her hand in the bag, and pulled out a CD with Gabriel’s picture on the cover. The CD was titled “To the Angel of Ireland.” “Gabriel asked us to help him with that CD,” said Chloe. “We all sang an Irish piece for you.” “Awww, I’ll listen to it at home.” Then, Candi also found a card in the bag, with a picture of an Irish shamrock on the cover. She opened it, and read it. As she read it, she felt as if she could hear Gabriel speaking the words. “’Dear Candelaria, I’ve done you so much wrong in the time I knew you. I cut down all your dreams and beliefs. I tried to force you to be like me, and my latest mistake was accusing you of doing something you didn’t. When I heard you were sick, my whole world came crashing down on me. I felt like such an idiot. Lillian grabbed me, and took my butt down to the church, so I could see
you rehearsing with your choir. I was never so moved in my life, especially when I heard you sing. You have a voice so sweet, not even an angel could top it, in my opinion. If anyone dare says you suck, they’ll have to deal with me. Everything about you is so beautiful—your eyes, your smile, your spirit, your heart, your love, your face, and your voice. You’re beautiful all over. How could I have been so stupid? I did some pretty awful things to you, and I’m sorry. I don’t know what the right words are to stress to you just how sorry I am. I didn’t want you to die. You deserve to live a long and healthy life, and everyone deserves to see how amazing you are. They deserve your Irish blessing. I’m giving up my heart for you. I’m giving you my heart to keep you alive, even if that means I won’t be alive. I believe that God would want you to live longer. Yes, I do believe in God. I always have. I just had doubts. When I was fifteen, I lost my dad, and I kept praying for God to bring him back. I never saw him physically, so I stopped praying. I turned into a rotten bastard, and I treated you like poop. What the hell was I thinking, pushing away someone like you? You made me believe again, and now, I can see my dad, everywhere I go. I guess I wasn’t looking with my heart. I was only looking with my eyes. Now, when I die for you, look for me with your heart, not your eyes. Listen for my voice. You have a part of me inside you now. Use it to look and listen for me. I’ll always hold you, and sing to you, just like you did for me. Remember, I love you, and Angelicus is one lucky guy to be with you. I hope you two live happily ever after, and I hope the kids you have grow up to be exactly like you. Goodbye, Candelaria Áilleacht Solas. I love you forever. With love from your guardian angel, Gabriel Lederman.’”
Candelaria spent the next couple of weeks, recovering, and then, she was back to rehearsing and interacting with her group. On her first day back, she had several announcements to make. “Hello, everyone,” she greeted cheerfully. “Well, first of all, I know every one of you has heard that Angelicus and I are getting married. We’ll be marrying in this very church, on Christmas Eve, and all of you are invited. You may bring friends and family if you wish. Secondly, I’m fully recovered. I am a quick healer. Lastly, I brought the song for the end of the program. This is Lori True’s version of an Irish blessing called May the Road Rise to Meet You. It’s such a beautiful piece, and it’s easy.” Candi read the lyrics out. “’May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be at your back. May the sunshine warm up on your face. May the rain fall softly at your feet, and until we meet again, may you keep safe in the gentle, loving arms of God.’ That’s all you have to sing. Then, I have a solo between choruses.” “Will the orchestra play with us?” asked Nicolaj. “Yes. We’ll have all sorts of Irish instruments, as well as a piano, and for the very last chorus, I’ll invite the audience to sing along.” “Awesome,” Brandon commented. “The idea of using this song in the program is to say a temporary goodbye to our audience, until our next program. More importantly, we’re also saying goodbye to loved ones we have lost. I know all of us have lost at least one important person in our lives. Who have you lost?” “My uncle died of a heart attack,” said Brie. “My mom died in a car accident,” said Gabriella. “My grandma died of Lung Cancer,” said Angela. There was dead silence, until Méav bravely raised her hand. She tried to hide her sorrow. “Um, my baby died of… a seizure.” “Awwww!” everyone else moaned sympathetically. “When did this happen?” asked Chloe. “Last week,” Méav said, nearly crying. “I thought he was gonna be fine. I feel like an idiot.” “Oh, Méav, Honey, you’re not an idiot,” Candi said sweetly. “You had no idea he was sick, but you tried your best to keep him healthy. All you can do is your best. He’s in a better place now.” “I guess,” Méav said doubtfully. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You did what you could.” Candi changed the subject. “I’ve lost some people, too. When I was seventeen, my father died of heart failure. A couple weeks ago, my friend, Vicky, died of Colon Cancer, and my ex-boyfriend, Gabriel, died to keep me alive. He gave me his heart, literally. Although it saddens me often, I always feel better when I remember that, even when one dies physically, they’ll always be with you in spirit. Whenever I think of them, and remember that, I feel like I’m surrounded by guardian angels, and I feel safe and happy. Now, let’s rehearse.”
Tonight Is the Night
Several months later, it was finally the day of the big concert! All of Miami was excited. Teresa had just put on her white, choir gown. She went to the bathroom to put on her makeup, where she saw Dominique doing her makeup as well. “Hey, Doe.” “Hey,” said Dominique. “Getting ready for my big night?” “I have a date.” Teresa was puzzled, and a little disappointed. “Date? But… what about my concert?” Dominique’s mouth dropped. “That’s tonight?!” “Yeah. You forgot?” “I guess. I really wanna go on this date. Can’t I just come to your next concert?” A sad and somewhat angry expression crossed Teresa’s face. “Doe, this concert is really important to me. I always come to your stuff. For once, why can’t you pay attention to me, and what I want, instead of you? Music is important to me. I’ve been looking forward to this for months, and I have a solo. Please come? You can bring your date.” Dominique thought about it, and took a breath. “Okay.” Teresa hugged her sister. “Thank you.” “I’ll help you with your makeup.” Teresa smiled. “Awesome.” Meanwhile, Mae was ready for the concert, and she ran down the stairs in her choir gown, very excitedly. Unfortunately, her mother wasn’t all that excited. She grabbed Mae’s arm, and stopped her in her tracks. “Where do you think you’re going?” Esmeralda snapped. “Mom, I have a concert,” answered a frustrated Mae. “You’re not going.” “Why not?!” Mae shouted. “Because, I said so.” “Mom, I’m eighteen now! You can’t control me!” “As long as you live under my roof, you will abide by my rules!” “The hell I will!” “Don’t you ever swear at me, young lady!” “Mom, will you shut up?!” Mae sobbed. “You’re always doing this to me! You’re always putting me down, and you don’t even care about how I’m feeling! I’m so sick of being your punching bag, ever since Dad went to jail! You’re always taking your anger out on me, and you treat me like I got Dad arrested! Do you think I wanted this to happen?! I didn’t! I want Dad back as much as you do! Now that he’s gone, and you’re too busy ignoring me, I feel like an orphan!” She sighed heavily, and angrily slapped her hands against her thighs. “You
know what? If I’m such a burden to you, I’ll just move out, and you’ll never have to see me again.” She ran up the stairs. “I’m packing my things.” Mae’s angry words echoed through Esmeralda’s head, and sunk to her heart. She slowly sauntered into the living room, sat down on the sofa, and thought to herself. Meanwhile, Mae was in her room, furiously rifling through her desk, dresser, closet, and other areas, and throwing her things into her suitcases. When she finished, she dragged them down the stairs, and out the front door, before her mother even got a chance to stop her. She packed the bags in her car, and drove to the church. William was dressed in his choir tuxedo, standing in front of Abigail. “You look great, Daddy,” Abigail said sweetly, smiling brightly at her father. “Thank you, Dear,” said William, smiling back. “I wanna come to your concert.” “Are you sure you’re feeling up to it?” “Yeah. I wanna get to see my dad singing before I go.” Abigail’s words touched William. “Okay, Darling,” he replied, embracing her. “Go get ready, Abbie.” “Okay.” Abigail waltzed up to her room, and changed into a silver, sparkling gown and matching heals. Then, she put on glittery makeup, which matched her dress perfectly. William was in a trance when he saw how beautiful Abigail looked. He brushed away tears of astonishment. “Daddy, why’re you crying?” Abigail asked, worried. “You look beautiful, Darling,” William replied, planting a kiss on Abigail’s tender cheek.
That night, the church was packed with people, including the minister, the orchestra, the choir, Candelaria, the Celtic Saints, and of course, a huge audience, including Candi’s friends. Candi took the stage. “Good evening, everybody. I’m Candelaria Solas, and tonight’s concert theme is love, peace, hope, faith, and harmony. We have many wonderful surprises in our program, for you, which I hope you enjoy. We will open up the concert with music from Celtic Woman's Máiréad Nesbitt, a very special violinist, accompanied by our orchestra. Then, we have a special performance from the Celtic Saints. They will be singing an Irish arrangement of Amazing Grace. Then, my choir will be singing a large selection of pieces, including a few Irish blessings. Then, I will be performing a few solo pieces, followed by a lovely, Celtic arrangement of My Hear Will Go On by my own mother, Máiréad Solas. Finally, we will all join together to sing an Irish blessing, May the Road Rise to Meet You. On the very last chorus of that piece, I want everyone in this church to sing along. I hope this program will reach many hearts out there, to let you know that there is love out there. We should all come together in harmony, forget about our differences, and love each other, unconditionally. Look past the other’s little flaws, and hold onto the good. If you look with your hearts, you’ll find good in anyone and anything. A fire may be dangerous, but if you’re careful, it’ll keep you warm during the coldest of nights. The bullies on the school playground may hurt a child’s feelings, but maybe the bullies just want to be loved. Give them that love, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll return it. Have faith in God. He is out there, watching over all of us. Look and listen with your heart. You’ll hear him talking to you, and you’ll see him before you. Believe, and you’ll feel his love around you. Always have hope and faith. Always spread love and peace, and always be the good person God knows you can be. Without further ado, let’s begin our program. The concert was like being in heaven for the audience. The music was absolutely breathtaking. The choir and orchestra played and sang a large variety of songs, including Irish blessings, hymns in Church Latin and English, Irish prayers, and songs of peace, love, hope, faith, and harmony. When Candelaria sang her solo pieces, every heart was in complete awe. Her angelic and sweet voice filled the church, and touched every heart, bringing tears to every eye, and smiles to every face. The reaction was the same when her mother sang her solo. Finally, it was time for everyone to sing May the Road Rise to Meet You. The orchestra played so brilliantly, and the choir sounded marvelous, with Máiréad and Candelaria Solas, singing the solo parts. When the audience sang along at the end, so much emotion filled the church! Yes, it was like being in heaven, and not a soul wanted the night to come to an end. Luckily, even after the concert, the night wouldn’t be over. Every musician and singer received standing ovations, as they all took a bow together.
After the concert, there was an after party in the fellowship hall, for the musicians and the audience. Abigail ran to her father, and squeezed him tightly. “Oh, Daddy, you were amazing!” she cried. “Thank you, Darling!” laughed William. “I cried so hard!” “I almost did, too.” They both laughed, and hugged each other again. Mae made her way to Candi’s table, and sat down beside her. “Hey,” she greeted sadly. “Hi, Sweetheart,” Candi responded. “What’s the matter?” “I tried to tell my mom how I felt. She didn’t care. She even tried to stop me from coming here.” “Oh, Mae-Mae, I’m so sorry.” Mae sunk her head under Candi’s arm, and sobbed. “I can’t take it anymore, Candi. I hate this. I feel like an orphan.” Candi stroked Mae’s hair. “I know, Baby.” “I wish you were my mother.” “What would you do if your mother apologised for how she treated you?” “I don’t think I could forgive her, just like that. She abandoned me, and I needed her. She even says she hates me. I don’t know how to forgive her after that. I’m not as pure as you.” “It’s okay, girl,” Lillian chimed in. “I don’t think I’d forgive the woman that fast, either. It’d take some time.” “You are very pure, in my opinion,” said Candi, “and I understand, Sweetie. If you really want me to, I’ll adopt you.” Little did Mae know that her mother was standing nearby, and could hear her speak. Esmeralda felt incredibly guilty. She marched right up to the table. “Mae?” Mae jumped! “Mom?! What are you doing here?” “I saw the whole concert. You were amazing.” “Thanks,” Mae said bitterly. “Look, I heard what you said, and I, honest to God, can’t blame you for not wanting to be around me anymore. I wasn’t there for you, and I treated you unfairly. I think Candi would be a better mother than I ever was to you, especially recently. If you wanna live with her, I’ll gladly sign the adoption papers. Maybe we can fix what went wrong from a distance. Maybe I’ll earn your forgiveness, if I’m not always in your face.” Mae closed her eyes to hide her tears. “’Kay,” she replied swiftly. Esmeralda bowed her head, and walked away from the table. “I think that’d be best,” Candi agreed. “I’ll adopt you, but once in a while, you can visit with your mother. This way, you can slowly forgive her, and gradually rebuild your relationship.” “That sounds good,” Mae concurred, nuzzling in Candi’s arms. “I love you so much.”
Candi stroked Mae’s back, and played with her hair. “I love you, too, Mae. I love all of you like my own family.” Meanwhile, Teresa was getting her food. She put her plate down when she heard Dominique running towards her. Dominique threw her arms around Teresa, and squeezed. “Oh, my gosh!” she squealed. “Teresa, you were awesome!!” Teresa laughed with so much joy. “Thank you so much!” “You’re a great singer. I’m so sorry I didn’t come to any of your other stuff. I’m never missing another one of your shows again! Forgive me?” “Totally!” They embraced each other. Chloe stood outside the dressing room, and saw that Charlie was looking right at her. He slowly approached her, and smiled shyly. “Hey, Chloe.” “Hi,” Chloe said nervously. “I was wondering if… you wanna go out with me,” Charlie stammered. “You’re serious?!” Chloe exclaimed, flabbergasted. “Yeah! You’re the coolest girl I ever met. You’re incredibly gorgeous, and so, so, very sweet.” Chloe blushed and giggled. “Aww.” “I really like you, Chloe. I’ve had a huge crush on you for a while. So, what do you say? Wanna be my girlfriend?” “I’d love to!” Angelicus zoomed over to Candi. “You were amazing!” he said, trying to catch his breath. “So were you!” Candi flirted. “And, your mom was awesome, too! I had no idea she could sing like that!” “She’s the one who taught me to sing.” “No wonder!” Candi giggled. Máiréad joined them. “Candi, Darling, you were wonderful tonight.” “It’s all thanks to you, Mum,” Candi said kindly. “And, Angelicus, welcome to the family.” “Thanks, Mrs. Solas,” said Angelicus, shaking Máiréad’s hand. “No, call me Mum.” “Mum.” Angelicus beamed at Máiréad and Candi. “Welcome to my family, too.”
In Holy Matrimony
Christmas Eve was a month later, and on that very day, Candelaria and Angelicus were married. Angelicus wore the same tuxedo his father wore when he was married. Máiréad had designed a special dress, just for Candelaria. It was soft and silky, and covered in glitter. Candelaria looked just like an Irish angel in her dress. The entire town was there to see the beautiful couple marry, including the church choir. Angelicus walked down the aisle on his mother’s arm. Candelaria’s father was not physically present to give her away, but she walked down the aisle on his arm anyway. In her eyes, he was there in spirit. They recited their vows, and were joined in holy matrimony. Angelicus lifted Candelaria’s veil, and kissed her softly. The wedding reception was filled with romance and love. Everyone had someone to dance with. “You really look beautiful, Chloe,” Charlie said in a trance, as he spun Chloe around the dance floor. “You think so?” “Yeah.” “You don’t care that I don’t have a stick body?” “Hell no! I honestly don’t give a damn about a girl’s size. I can’t take my eyes off of you. You’re so beautiful, inside and out.” "Aww, thank you, but remember. We're in church, so no cursing." “Sorry,” Charlie laughed nervously. “It’s alright,” Chloe giggled. “Can I kiss you?” “Yes, you may.” Charlie leaned in, and pressed his lips against Chloe’s. They both kissed passionately, and they continued to dance. William was dancing with Abigail, and holding her so close. “I’m glad I’m here, Daddy,” said Abigail. “I wanna spend as much time with you as I can.” “And, I with you. I don’t know when to expect what.” “I know.” “But, I’m relieved to know you’re no longer afraid to die.” “It’s gonna happen, but I wanna live the life I have left. I wanna spend it with you and your friends.” “Abigail, you have blessed me with eighteen happy years. Even when your mother died, you found things to smile about. You held my hand at the funeral.” “I always feel so safe with you, Daddy.” “I feel safe and blessed with you.” “So, if we have a daughter,” said Angelicus to Candi, “what would you name her?”
“Maybe Máire,” answered Candi. “It’s the Irish form of the name Mary.” “I love that name. What about Sinéad?” “Oh, how lovely! What if we have a boy?” “What about Joseph?” “Perfect.” “Candi, I love you so much.” “I love you, too, Angelicus.” While they were kissing, William hurried to them, frantically, carrying Abigail in his arms. “Abigail!” he panicked. “Abigail, wake up! Abigail! Abigail!” Everyone was suddenly quiet! Abigail gradually opened her eyes, and gently rubbed her father’s shoulder. “Daddy?” she whispered. “Darling!” William cried out. “Are you alright?!” “Daddy, it’s time for me to go.” “No,” he panted. “I have to.” “No! Please, not yet!” “I’m sorry, Daddy.” “No, please don’t go!” William hid his face on Abigail’s body, and wept his heart out. “Please hold my hand, Daddy?” Abigail whispered tearfully. “Abigail.” “I love you. Please hold my hand.” William took hold of Abigail’s hand, and grasped it firmly. Abigail consoled her father with her other arm, by wrapping it around his neck, and caressing his back and shoulders. “I love you, Daddy. Goodbye.” As she closed her eyes, and took her trip to heaven, the deejay played the song that Gabriel had recorded for Candi. William sat down, holding his precious Abigail in his arms. He cuddled her, and he grieved. Abigail was buried outside the church, and her friends and family grieved for her, shedding tears on her grave. They decided to move the reception outside, where they could be close to lost loved ones. Candi tapped her spoon against a glass, and everyone was quiet. “I have a toast to make. These past few months have been part of a big adventure for me. I was libeled horribly, but then, that was corrected. I was diagnosed with heart failure, and because of the horrible things being said about me, I actually wanted to let my illness take over. I felt I was to blame, and I wanted to die. Then, I wouldn’t cause any more pain for anyone. Everything fell back into place when the mistake was corrected, and I was saved. Finally, I found my true love. So much has happened in such a short time. What I listed was only a little of what happened, but everything that happened was important. Now, I am truly blessed to be standing here, right next to the one I love, and I know we will spend the rest of our lives together. I love him, and I know for sure that I do. I’m also truly blessed to celebrate with all of you. Although a tragedy has happened
tonight, we’ve managed to realise that Abigail’s death was a blessing in disguise. She was very sick, and God decided to take her, before she drowned in worse pain. Tonight is still a happy night for all of us, because we’re here together. To all of us. May we all be a big, happy family, and may our family last forever.” Everyone clinked their glasses for the toast. “I, too, have a toast to make,” Máiréad chimed in. “Candi is not the only one who feels blessed. I do, too, because I’m her mother. She has blessed me with more gifts than I could ever ask for in a lifetime. She brought never-ending joy into my life. She’s my angel, as well as everyone else’s. Now, she’s Angelicus’ angel, and he is hers. He’s also mine. To Candelaria and Angelicus! May they have a long and happy marriage, and may their love continue, even after death.” “To Ireland!” cheered Lillian. Once again, everyone clink their glasses. Afterwards, Candi and Angelicus sang a heartfelt and emotional duet together, which made it so obvious how much they truly loved each other. Yes, they would live and love eternally, even after death. After they finished singing, they shared another romantic kiss.
Angelicus decided to move into Candelaria’s heavenly house. They both took Mae in as their child. From time to time, Esmeralda would visit Mae, and they would gradually build their relationship. This didn’t mean that Candi and Angelicus would undo the adoption. They would always keep her, but at least she could try to get closer to her birth mother again. About a year after Candelaria and Angelicus married, they gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl, and they named her Joy. Her name said it all. She made them, and Mae, so happy. Candi was awarded the Nobel Prize, and her medal hung proudly on the wall of the foyer. She even had a diary that she had kept, ever since she turned twenty-one. That diary contained so many deep thoughts and feelings that would reach many hearts and souls, so she decided to have it published. Chloe and Charlie ended up getting married as well, and Chloe was pregnant with a set of adorable, identical twin boys. She remained ever beautiful, and Charlie never stopped loving her. Méav always kept her deceased son in her heart, even though she had another baby. This one was perfectly healthy. Teresa and Dominique became closer and closer sisters. Dominique continued to attend all of Teresa’s performances, and Teresa continued to attend all of Dominique’s plays. Candelaria and Lillian remained the best of friends. They even started their own Celtic band together, and they played and sang at the church, every Sunday. Candelaria remained healthy and safe, and she kept praying to God that she would never become ill for a while. She wanted to be around for a long time, so she could take care of the ones she loved, reach more people, and let the world feel her love. And so, her love touched the lives of many people across the world, and her angelic voice traveled the globe, warming many hearts. Candelaria Áilleacht Solas would forever remain Ireland’s sweetest and purest angel.
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