Benjamin was not my first rodeo. I’ve been taking assignments since before his great granddaddy was a twinkle in his great-great granddaddy’s eye. I’ve worked damage control, surveillance, deaths, tender mercies, comfort, communications, and integral interventions. I’ve protected the innocent and supported those under heavy burdens. I was in Caen when the American troops liberated the French from German forces. I crossed the prairies with countless wagon trains and handcart companies. I lived in the slums of New York just waiting to help a ward. I’ve danced with the devil, and I’ve used guile to help people see the truth.
I have never, and I mean NEVER, helped someone find a replacement spouse.
The closest I might have ever come was with the Bjork’s. I helped them find their next child. Oh what a sad case that was, but with a happy ending. They had both wanted a huge family, but she had health problems that made it difficult for her to get pregnant. Finally they had their first son. However, after seven weeks of a wonderful life, I was commissioned to take him to the veil. SIDS. We hate it just as much as mortals do. I remember Caryn begging her husband to undo what had been done, but he knew he couldn’t. No one could. It was the will of the Creator, thus there must be some purpose in it. Eventually, after it had been determined that she was unable to bear any more children, they decided to adopt. They tried to adopt 13 times. One success was Michael. He sadly… was another trial they had to live. After Caryn and Luke had taken Michael home, but before the adoption was sealed and official, Michael’s birth mother was faced with a dilemma: another family offered to pay her substantially to give them Michael instead of the Bjork’s. My boss tried to stop her. He sent Hall in a dream to Michael’s maternal grandfather. Hall and I were partners at the time and were often assigned to complimentary cases as was the usual protocol. Hall told the grandfather that Michael was meant to stay with the Bjorks, that they had been prepared to raise him as he should be. Grandpa told his daughter, Michael’s birthmother, that God wanted him to stay a Bjork. But Megan, Michael’s mother, had made her decision: she took him away and gave him to the other family. This time Caryn and Luke had spent two months with their second son.
My boss can do a lot. But he will never take away someone’s agency. Ever.
There is a happy ending, I promise. I feel obligated to tell you so that you see the original point of my story. I had helped the adoption process with Michael through subliminal persuasive methods, being an invisible force that gave feelings of hope or frustration. This time, in order to give Caryn and Luke a higher chance of success, I was asked to go Integral. Integral means that we assume a created identity and slip into the ward’s life. In this capacity I became the friend of a young girl named Dawn. Dawn got knocked up by her 22 year old boyfriend—she was 16. I both love and hate Integral assignments; I become so attached to my wards that I sometimes forget what I’m there to do. I thought I was supposed to help her make the decision to adopt out her baby, and then choose the Bjorks. My boss had done a lot to prepare this couple to receive and raise a son. And not just any son: Dawn’s son. But Dawn was already thinking about adoption by the time I brought it up. In fact, my real job ended up being there to support her while her family criticized her and told her to keep the baby. With me there to stick up for her, she fought every obstacle that came her way. It seemed like the powers of Hell were united against this adoption. In fact, looking back at Ryan’s life – Ryan is what the Bjork’s ended up naming him – the powers of Hell fought against him a lot. But he was victorious in the end. Or, well, he was when I last checked. Eventually the adoption was final, and Caryn got the son she had been longing for all her life. It wasn’t the 12 kids she’d always wished for. But Caryn got many opportunities to mother so many children. I can think of at least 20 who would call her a surrogate mother. She is such a force! And Ryan… well, he has great things ahead of him. And Hell can’t stop him. Not while I’m watching out for him.
Anyway, the point of that story was that I helped Caryn and Luke find the son who didn’t REPLACE Michael… but filled the hole he’d left.
If I thought about this assignment that way, then Benjamin’s request didn’t seem so foreign.
I don’t know. Love is a hard thing for me to grasp. I have been in love many times, including my current amour. But the thought that you can replace one person with another… ick, that just makes my skin crawl. That’s not to say that I think all widows and divorcés should remain single the rest of their lives, not at all! I just think each person has a special role to play in our lives and a specific imprint to leave. You can’t replace people.
Filling the hole, Lina. Remember that you’re just filling the hole. You can’t give her Benjamin again… but you can give her another companion.
Filling the hole. What an interesting concept. There seemed to be holes in my heart and life that could never be filled, no matter how hard I tried. Rachelle kept telling me that it’s because the right person hasn’t found me yet. I tell her that I’ve been alive more than two hundred years; if I haven’t found him yet, who’s to say I ever will?
“That’s your first problem,” she replies. “HE has to find YOU.”
I hate when she says that. I feel like it instantly invalidates the men I’ve fallen for before they fell for me. Like my current love. Sometimes I voice that insecurity. She smiles and says, “Evelina. He has to find you. The real you. The true you. The one you hardly share with anyone. I don’t mean he has to find you physically. He just has to be the one that brings out the real you. Does he do that?”
I sigh. “I dunno. Maybe. I can’t tell.”
“Then he hasn’t found you yet. So stop stressing.”
Agh. Rachelle makes it sound so simple. So easy. It’s not easy. Not for me. Not when my heart gets broken. And I hate to say it, but every time that happens, I whisper in my heart, Guillaume. Will you ever let me replace you?
But no one can replace Guillaume.
Sometimes I hate him for it.