|White Dove Flying - Part II ©|
"Look, one of the doves is coming back."
Michael's swollen eyes followed her pointing finger straight to the dove flying in ever-closer circles. He lifted one hand to shade his face only long enough to spot it, then slowly reached heavenward with all his might as if to touch the delicate bird. Cory could see the tenseness . . . the cords in his neck stretched tight. The compassion she felt was undescribable. She wanted to ease his hurt, but the only thing she could do was share it.
As she held him, she looked into the crowd of people. Standing there was the tall stranger from the plane with a sad half-smile on his face. She broke away from Michael and started for him, but stopped short, turning to look back at Michael, then back at the stranger. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. He was walking toward her and could see the questions her over-wrought brain could no longer contain.
"Don't ask." Reaching for her hand, "Just come walk with me."
She looked back at Michael one more time.
"He'll still be here when we return. Come walk with me."
The adrenalin begin to kick in. Cory could feel the excitement like electricity flying around her. "The last several days and all the questions meet here, right now, don't they?" She was nearly running to keep up with him.
He looked back, smiling, "I have the answers you're seeking." His steps slowed, finally, waiting for her to catch up. "You do know who I am now, don't you?"
"Yes, but it's unbelievable."
"Don't question it, just listen. "When the police went through Valerie's things, they found a homing device in her purse. That's how Jason, her ex-husband knew where she and Michael were every move they made. The only advantage they had was he didn't have a car, but that only slowed him."
"So when Michael and Valerie were at the restaurant, he knew how to find them."
"Yes, and everywhere else too. They lucked out while they were on the hill, he was having a hard time getting a nice police officer to listen. By the time he convinced the officer he was the good guy, they were back in town, dancing. If only the officer had called in, he'd of known there was a restraining order out on Jason."
"I don't know how it happened. How did she die?"
"She was shot, twice, both times in the heart."
"But how— what happened?"
"I'll answer that question by going back to the beginning and telling you the whole story.
"Michael was working the day he met Valerie. He works for a radio station. That day, he was on location . . . a live remote, when a young girl, about ten, started flirting with him. Suddenly, her mother was in his face, demanding, ‘Who are you?' Michael's quick comeback was, ‘I'm the guy your daughter's trying to fix you up with.' Valerie was good natured and quick to smile. ‘We're going to have to do something about that.' Her boldness and honesty startled him and yet, at the same time, really turned him on. They were instantly drawn and began seeing one another. At first, there were numerous daytime meetings. They both had children and went places children want to go, roller blading, swimming, picnics, things like that. On one occasion, they took Valerie's children to a lazer tag shooting gallery. In the dark, while the children were playing lazer tag, Michael and Valerie began to explore a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Those stolen kisses led to their first real date. Jason followed them everywhere they went in town that night, causing a commotion each time. Three times the police were called. Each time, assuming it was a domestic squabble, they broke it up and sent both parties on their way. The last confrontation got much more violent than the previous two. That's when Michael took her home. The police were waiting for them when they reached Valerie's. They wanted to make sure everything was ok.
"Michael went home and tried to sleep, but he spent a fitful night. Each time he started to doze, he saw Jason's wild eyes. When he woke on Sunday morning,.there was a strange foreboding feeling that seemed to tug and pull at the knot in his stomach. His first thought was of Valerie and his mind kept going over the events of the previous evening. He wondered how her ex knew their every move. Even before he received an overwrought phone call from Valerie's mother, he knew that something was wrong. He called the radio station where he worked and they confirmed that she had been shot.
"There's something that keeps eating at me, but it's just a feeling." Cory straightened and turned to make eye contact. " I sense that Valerie knew—"
"She told Michael, ‘It won't be over till the white dove flies.'"
"Then my gut feeling is right?"
"Mmmmm--- " He slowed his pace and noticing a park bench, motioned toward it. "Maybe . . . you saw the painting—"
"Yes. Her father said she loved that painting."
"She identified with it. I can still hear her voice, the way it softened, yet so alive with excitement, referring to it as ‘Freedom In Flight.'"
"Almost as if she painted herself out of the picture. If you think of it that way, it was prophetic."
"Valerie asked Michael to go to church with her. He told her, he had his own agreement with the Big Guy. ‘Me and Him already have that all figured out.' ‘I'll get you into church,' she smiled, prodding him. He flirted back. ‘You probably will, but not this Sunday.' Right now, that memory is heavy on his heart. His mind won't turn loose of— ‘If I'd gone to church with her the next morning, I'd be dead now too.'
"Was she shot in church?"
"Jason came into the church, sat next to her and they began arguing. She got up and went outside with him close behind. One of the parishioners was an off-duty police officer. Fearing there might be trouble, he followed them outside and around to the back of the church. Out there midst the garbage bins, there was a confrontation, Jason shot Valerie twice in the heart. The officer hollered a warning at Jason and Jason shot at him, wounding him. He returned fire, killing Jason. The police found a piece of paper in Jason's pocket with Michael's name and address on it.
"Michael's guilt will lead him to her family. In compassion, he will reach out to them, not knowing how to help. Working through their own grief, they will replay her life over and over for him as a part of their healing. He will continue his emotional journey with Valerie in this way, falling deeply in love with her memory. Often, he will sense her presence, and rightly so. She will be the friend for him at her memorial, his counselor, and eventually the tool to tell her story. She will linger for a long time.
"Then he will seek counseling?"
"Yes, someone who works for the police department. They will meet numerous times and Michael will learn something he is not yet able to comprehend."
"It wasn't his fault."
"Wait a minute. Now you're talking about something that hasn't happened yet." Cory squinted her eyes and frowned. She reached out and took his hand. "If you're an angel, how is it that I can touch you?"
"You've heard the cliche, ‘ Many have come in contact with angels . . . unaware?'" He smiled, putting one arm around her shoulder as they continued on.
"I knew who you were when I saw the last message on the napkin, actually, when I saw the napkin on the coffee table after I hadn't been able to find it before . . . I knew, but I still couldn't quite believe. I guess I hadn't really put it all together."
"Do you believe now?"
"There's a couple of things I haven't touched on yet."
Cory searched his eyes for a clue. "There's more?"
"Valerie's father will put all his effort into campaigning for gun control. For months, he will write letters and make appearances spreading the word and his efforts will be rewarded."
"Finally, something will be done about people who buy guns that really shouldn't have them."
"Yes. Jason's guns were taken from him a year earlier at their divorce hearing. The judge felt he was a threat to himself and others then and yet the gun he used to shot Valerie was one he purchased only a week prior to the shooting. In a letter to Michael, Valerie's father will reason that maybe his efforts will save the life of someone else even if it comes too late for her."
"This is all so heart wrenching— "
"Spurred on by her family, Michael will also throw himself into action. With the aid of the radio station, he will raise a lot of money for the children that will be placed into an educational fund. The children have lost both parents this past week and Michael is really concerned about that. He will be blaming himself for some time to come. The first newspaper he picked up stated that Jason wouldn't have shot Valerie if it hadn't been for the other man."
"That was totally unjustified. How could they be so cruel?"
"It was sensational. That's what sells newspapers."
"These last few days have connected me to an electrical current, but then, you already know that."
"I'd like to hear it from you—"
"Valerie stands for all people who exemplify human frailty . . . abused. I was in a relationship that went soar too. If more people were to stand up and speak out . . . "
"Then my work has not been in vain."
"But, I failed. I didn't stop anything."
"There's no way you could have. You can't control another's decisions. Look beyond that Cory. Look at what Valerie's story has done to you and you do control the decisions you make."
"Are you saying I had to meet Michael?"
Ignoring her question, he continued. "The decision you make now will have a profound effect on others, as well."
"Why are you telling me these things?"
"You're on the right path, don't stop now."
"If I choose to stay with Michael, I'll change the course of history, won't I?"
"Even if it hasn't happened yet?"
"Yes. The tall stranger gave her that sad smile again and touching her arm gently, "Make your decision wisely." He stood, pulling her up too and brushed his fingers across her check. He reached for her hand and connected only with her finger tips as he turned to walk away.
Cory, dazed and astonished, stood looking after him for a moment and then thought of Michael. She started back toward the church, pausing only briefly for one last look. He was gone. Turning again, she saw Michael still standing off to himself. She ran to him and they clung tightly together.
"She kissed her last kiss . . . laughed her last laugh with me," His voice cracked as he squared his shoulders and wiped his eyes. "Where did you go? You were here, then you were gone. Suddenly, you appeared again as if you were swept away by an angel. Cory . . . what's going on?"
"It's really hard to explain."
"It was him, wasn't it?"
"Where did you go?"
"We walked--- "
"And . . . ?"
"And talked— I have to go," she whispered.
"But why— Cory?"
She held back the tears, pulling away from him and turned to walk away. Her heart was remembering the angel's first words, "If she should happen to pass your way, she's about 5'10", shiny auburn hair and a smile as natural and beautiful as an autumn morning."
"I just have to— "
Written by Michael Blackwell
and Sheryl Hamilton Chaney