Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stranger of Monterey

The generations of  Monterey
Raimundo father of Miguel
Miguel father of Rafael
Rafael married to Alain. Father to Jared and Michael
Jared married to Brianna

It's been almost eights years since Michael’s abduction. He’s become totally free from any side effects of the abduction. He has become a college professor who teaches music. He also has a manager who coordinates his time between teaching and performing. Michael is known world wide for his music and singing. God has transformed him int-o a powerful man of God. Michael is coming home for Christmas just as he has for every Christmas.

This year it seems like there is a change in the air. He looks at his mother and father and sees that they are the same. His brother and wife are the same. Grandfather seems older. Yet, who is this slender girl with long auburn hair and liquid brown eyes. Michael sees a stranger in Monterey

Michael was tired as he entered the mansion. He had been driving for four hours to get home for the holidays. It was dark in the mansion because it was after midnight. Michael made his way up the stairs and to his room. He put his attaché case down and stretched out on the bed. His five o clock shadow was now very dark. Despite his weariness Michael was also hungry. The family had long since gone to bed so he would have to find something in the kitchen. He hoisted himself up and went downstairs again. He was surprised to see Amy up sitting at the table. “Hi Amy!” he said.

Amy glanced up from her papers and saw a very tired Michael with rumpled shirt and messy hair and scruffy face. “Whoa! You look exhausted! Here sit down and I’ll get you something to eat. Scrambled eggs and toast ok?”

“Oh, that would be great. Thanks! What are you doing down here at this hour?” he yawned. Then he noticed the papers. “What’s this?”

Amy was busy extracting eggs from the refrigerator and putting jam on the table. “I’m looking over the college papers that have offered me a scholarship. Terry and Timmy were whiney tonight and I couldn’t concentrate upstairs so I came down here. I just lost track of time. Plus, I knew you’d be coming home and I wanted to greet you. You want some juice or milk? Coffee would keep you up I think.” In moments Michael had a plate of hot scrambled eggs and toast. He was eating the eggs when his elbow connected with the glass of milk; turning it over and spilling milk toward Amy’s papers. “Ah, I’m sorry!” he grabbed for a napkin.

Amy’s reflexes were better than Michael’s at that moment and she had her papers off the table quicker than Michael grabbed the napkin. “I guess I’ll do this tomorrow anyways. I’ll get your milk. Just sit there and eat.” Michael was too tired to argue and continued to eat. He drank up the fresh glass of milk in a few gulps. He then got up from the table and belched. “Excuse me Amy! With that over I’m off to bed. See you tomorrow!”

The kitchen grew quiet as Michael left the room. Amy had accomplished her mission. She had waited up to see if Michael needed anything. Somehow, she had a feeling that he’d be hungry after a four hour drive. She picked up her pile of papers and set them aside. The dishes were rinsed and put into the dishwasher before she herself went upstairs.

Amy climbed in between her clean sheets that smelled like fabric softener. She lay there wide awake. Thoughts of going to college, spending time with her friends, and thoughts of her family kept running through her mind. She had graduated a year earlier. Her grades had warranted that she be moved up in school at an early age. Rather than rush off to college though, Amy had taken a year off. The job at the “Jewel” had kept her busy. She loved to play the piano with soft lights and candles. The restaurant was one of the most expensive in the area. They catered to the upper class. Amy had made friends with the chef who was hired from Switzerland. The restaurant had a dance floor center with tables all around. Amy played the dinner music as people ate or waltzed in the evenings. The inside of the restaurant was decorated to resemble an island setting. Small palm trees were scattered throughout the restaurant with soft lighting glowing from the base of the trees to the ceilings. The owner had taken down the stucco outer walls and replaced them with tinted windows. The heat of the sun didn’t come in, but the customers could look out to see the tropical gardens. Amy enjoyed dressing up for work and meeting new people each night. The clientele was usually in their middle ages. Yet, the servers were often friends of Amy and her age.

Her last thought before drifting off to sleep was a very gross Michael. In her mind he was almost middle age. The belching after eating especially reminded her of some of the older men at the restaurant. “Oh, well he’s still Michael” It had been decided long ago that Amy call Michael by his name and not Uncle Michael. The twins however referred to him as “Uncle Mike the Knight”.

Amy had a fondness for Michael no matter how old he had seemed tonight. There was always something special about him that made Amy want to be near him. She had shared her feelings over the years with her mother. Rather than pass it off as a childhood crush, her mother had prayed for both of them. “A crush wears off” Brianna thought to herself, but Amy seldom dated and Brianna thought perhaps Amy was serious about Michael. Either way, she kept Amy’s confidence and even Jared didn’t know Amy’s secret.Brianna had been the family's housekeeper for a long time before she married into the family. Amy was treated like family.

Michael awoke to Jared shouting. “Stay away from Uncle Michael’s room!” His nephews had planned to awaken him by jumping on top of him. Michael was grateful for his brother’s intervention. Twin seven year old boys could be real monsters sometimes. Michael yawned and slowly got to a sitting position. “Oh brother, I ache all over.” Michael stumbled to the shower. After shaving and donning clean clothes Michael felt like his old self.

He stared down at the picture on his dresser. It was a picture of him and Amy taking a bow when he had performed his first concert after he was abducted those many years ago. Amy was a skinny ten year old and he was a skinny nineteen year old kid. Since he was abducted he had gotten into the routine of working out at the gym three times a week. His shoulders had grown with maturity. He had packed on some muscle and no longer felt like a skinny kid.

It still amazed him how the Lord had used a skinny ten year old’s prayer song to heal his mind. Yet, after he had heard that song of prayer for his freedom, God had totally melted away any bitterness and fear. His music was known worldwide now. He was privileged to be placed in the category with other big name musicians who played for the glory of God.

His manager was careful to coordinate his time at the college with time on the road performing. Michael had become very creative in the class room teaching music and in performing it as well. It was a gift he didn’t take lightly.

Michael was now twenty seven years old and not married. He wasn’t even engaged although he came close once. Michael was known as an oddity in this age of casual sex. He was a virgin. Some of the women he had tried to date were quite aggressive in their ideas about Michael when he had refused to comply with their demands.

He had been honest about his faith in God. Those same women had spread evil gossip to the public. The rag magazines had a field day with it. He was touted as being gay and even a possible child molester. Michael had spoken up a few times when he felt it necessary. He was approached by a national news network to speak on his behalf. He was given a five minute interview and asked about his life as a virgin. “I am amazed that the same people who expect me to respect their views about sex are now putting me in the headlines because of my views. I have had to listen to innuendos and been accused of many things. When has it become a crime to live the life of a Christian in accordance with what the word of God says? I have no further comment on this subject.” The newsman was so amazed at Michael’s demeanor that the subject was dropped.

Michael never became defensive for himself. He diverted the subject to what the word of God states. The interview became lighter as Michael spoke of playing tennis and working out. He’d been spotted on the golf course many times. “I’m not very good at it. My friends just pull me out there so they look better.” He explained that he wasn’t running for any government office. “I don’t think it would work well if I opened each meeting in the key of c minor! I am a musician and teacher.”

This Christmas Liana had pulled out all the stops and decorated the mansion in a cascade of white lights down the hand rails of the stairs. There were poinsettia plants here and there. The smell of cinnamon was in the air. Brianna had brought her Christmas village out of storage and it was placed in the dining room on the side table that was seldom used. The mansion was traditionally yet tastefully decorated.

Michael sniffed the air as he descended the stairs. His presents had been bought and packed and delivered long before he arrived. They sat under the tree along with the others. The parlor was the traditional place to open presents since he was too young too remembers. He looked at his family in the dining room as he entered. The usual Christmas breakfast of cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, sausage and hash brown sat in their silver trays atop the buffet. Coffee and tea with juices and water were on the table. The white linen tablecloth acted as a backdrop for the beautiful crystal goblets and green and red dinnerware that was taken out only at Christmas time. Even the silverware was in its place. The silk green napkins were folded in a bow tie and lay across the plates. The family had been waiting for him to join them.

“It looks beautiful and I am famished.” Michael exclaimed as he strode into the room. He took his usual seat next to Amy and Rafael said the breakfast prayer. Soon, all that could be heard was the tinkling of dishes and forks as the family ate their breakfast. Terry and Timmy were the first to finish.

“Oh, can we open presents now?” asked Timmy hopefully. “No, son,” said his father. ‘Everyone has to be finished before anyone opens a present. However, I have a surprise for you as we finish up. I knew you’d get antsy. I was eight years old once. Thank goodness I wasn’t twins though.”

“We like being twins!” Terry piped up. In truth the boys were identical in almost every way. Terry had lighter brown hair than Timmy. “What’s the surprise?”

“Well, if you go into the old nursery you’ll see that someone has transformed it into a whole new playroom for you.” His father said. Jared didn’t mention that he’d spent half the night with Rafael setting up a train set that the boys had teased for.

The boys excused themselves and took off up the stairs. Everyone was happy to hear the boys shout out their approval and happiness as they entered the room. No one heard from the boys until everyone had finished their breakfast in peace.

Miguel smiled as his family went into the parlor. The Senator was with them on this holiday. Amy’s parents and her deceased first husband’s parents would arrive in the after noon to visit with Amy. At eighteen Amy had become a beauty. She stood tall at five feet 9 inches. Her mahogany colored brown hair stood out against her luminous brown eyes. Her eyes were always sparkling. She was a graceful young lady. She had never gone through any awkward stage. She had transformed from sweet young girl to a graceful young woman. Miguel thought it was probably due to the devotion of her mother and Liana. To Amy, Liana was Grandma and she addressed her as such. So, Amy had three grandmothers and four grandfathers. Jared had become a wonderful father as well. The transformation from a serious workaholic to a sometimes silly family man had been amazing to watch.

After all the gifts had been passed and the wrapping paper was exploding in the room Miguel sat back in contentment. He’d received the usual clothes, a few books, and some new music for his cd player. He’d also received a new pen set and a picture of Michael playing in concert. The picture would be mounted this very day.

Miguel watched his grand son as Amy moved around the room. Michael hadn’t taken his eyes off of her for a moment all day. Amy was wearing jeans and a lavender loose fitting blouse. Her hair was combed and loose over her shoulders. Miguel smiled to himself as he realized that Michael was seeing Amy as a young woman for the first time this year. Each time he had come home he had commented on Amy to his grandfather. The family had prayed for years that Michael would find the woman God had in mind for him. The thought had never occurred to anyone that Amy might be that one woman. Miguel however had thought and prayed about it for the last two years.

The two had much in common. Their love for music and their creativity in the gift were enjoyed by the family. They sang well together. They often spent time together laughing and talking. It had become the family treat to watch them banter back and forth.

Miguel knew that Michael was thinking about Amy more often because he had spoken to him about her. He sat back in his chair with a glint in his eye as he remembered Michael’s words. “It’s hard to believe I’m eight years older than Amy. I don’t feel like an old man.” Miguel had sat quietly waiting for his grand son to explain more how he felt about Amy. Waiting proved profitable when the next day Michael had sat with him again. He had asked, “Mom is a lot younger than Dad isn’t she?” To this Miguel had smiled and nodded.

His thoughts were interrupted when Amy announced that she was going to have to shop for a special formal dress. . The restaurant had decided to have a formal New Year’s Eve party. “Michael, are you busy tomorrow? I’d love it if you’d go shopping with me.” Michael blinked his eyes a few times before answering.

“I’m not much for malls Amy.” he answered.

“But if you liked the dress than I know it would be perfect. Oh come on, dear uncle. It’s time to do your uncle duty!” Amy added.

Michael stopped breathing a second. “She sees me as an old man” he thought. He swallowed and told her he’d go with her. Brianna and Liana looked at each other and winked. They hadn’t been watching Michael, but they knew Amy’s feelings for Michael. The little minx was out to get his attention.

The next day Amy was up early making breakfast for Michael and herself. Michael was seated at the breakfast table watching Amy scurry around with pans and plates. The two sat down in silence as Michael asked God for a blessing. He was a little confused as to why Amy was so happy. “I’m just so glad to see you Michael. Just think, I have you all to myself for today.” She sounded like the little girl Michael once knew. As Michael glanced over at the tall willowy woman he nearly choked on his food. He was praying for forgiveness for his thoughts as he looked down at his food.

Amy was not to be put off. “Your not angry with me are you Michael? Was there someone else you’d rather be with?” Amy turned her glossy brown eyes up to face Michael. He grinned sheepishly. “No” he managed to say in a voice that was a few octaves higher than normal.

They took off for the dress shops in Michael’s sports car. Amy found a formal shop quickly and the two walked to the racks of dresses. At first Michael was delighted that Amy had such elegant taste in clothes. She went into the dressing room to try on a gold sequined gown with spaghetti straps. As she came out for Michael to get a look she caught her foot and nearly stumbled. She was upset to look like a klutz. As she was looking down she didn’t glance to see the expression of shock on Michael’s face.

“No, I don’t think that gown will do.” He said. He stared down at his hands as Amy walked away. Amy stood in the dressing room very disappointed. “He isn’t even looking at me. He just wants to get this over with. “She sighed. She picked up an emerald green gown and slid it on. This gown had only one shoulder strap with a slit up the side of the gown.

As she approached Michael this time she didn’t loose her footing. She stood tall and waited to see Michael’s reaction. She smiled as she noticed his mouth drop. Just as quickly as his eyes lit up though, he frowned. He cleared his throat. “No I don’t think you look so good in that one either.” Amy slowly retreated to the dressing room. She looked in the mirror while she stood there. The walls of the dressing room were white so she had a chance to see the gown in a good light. “This gown is gorgeous. What’s up with him?”

She tried on a red dress, a blue dress and a white dress with the same response from Michael. Finally, she came out of the dressing room in her street clothes. “I guess we’ll have to go some where else.” She looked so forlorn that Michael felt even guiltier.

Each time she had come out in a dress Michael had wanted to reach out and grab her. He had been asking for help and forgiveness with each glance at her.

“Who are you going to the party with?” he asked. He was hoping to change the subject. Amy gave a name that Michael didn’t know. Michael drove to another dress shop. He was looking through the gowns when he came across a silver gown with gold threading in it. It was sleeveless and a v neck. Michael envisioned it on Amy. He asked her what she thought of it. Amy’s eyes lit up. “Wow, I love it!” She grabbed the gown in her size and went to try it on. Michael was sitting with his head down as Amy came out of the dressing room. This time she didn’t ask Michael’s opinion. A couple of customers turned and looked at her. “Lady, you look awesome!” Amy smiled and said “Good! I’ll buy it!” Michael could feel the sweat at the back of his neck. He knew he was grinning but couldn’t stop it. She really did look stunning in silver and gold. Her dark hair and olive complexion were perfect for that dress. She had curves too. Once again Michael felt like a filthy old man.

He was glad when it was time to leave. As they were eating lunch at a nearby restaurant Amy dropped another bomb on him. “There might be dancing at this party. I will be playing the piano for a while of course but not all night. But, I don’t know how to waltz. It’s an old dance; do you know how to waltz?”

Michael coughed on the sandwich he was eating. After downing a few gulps of water and taking a few deep breaths he finally was able to speak. “What is it your saying? You think I’m old so I know the waltz?”

Amy’s eyes grew huge. “Well, no…it’s just that I remember you used to go to dances. I was just wondering if you’d teach me to waltz.”

This had been a most trying day for Michael. “I’m a little tired I guess. Old age you know. I guess I can teach you later. Not right now.” He knew he was stammering and all of a sudden he felt like he should go buy vitamins.

“Oh Thanks, would tonight be all right? Amy sat down her glass of water and stared across the table at Michael. He seemed preoccupied several times today she was thinking. “Listen, just forget it Michael. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I forget that just because you’re a family member you still have a life of your own. I’m sorry for just taking advantage of your time.” She was disappointed that Michael didn’t answer quickly. “He’s probably trying to be nice” she thought.

Michael’s mind was going in a different direction entirely. He was thinking of the time his father had to teach him the waltz. He hadn’t danced in a while. As he focused on Amy he realized that once again he had missed what she had said. “What did you say Amy?”

The restaurant was getting crowded for the lunch time rush. Waitresses were carrying trays back and forth. People were being seated and conversation was a low mumble throughout the restaurant. Amy blamed this on the reason Michael hadn’t heard her. “I was just saying that perhaps I’ve been monopolizing your time. You don’t have to go over waltz steps with me if you have something going on. A date perhaps?”

Michael smiled and looked over at Amy. “Nope, I’m free most any time for the next few weeks. You’re definitely not a bother Amy. Tonight around 6 on the patio should be a good place for a dance lesson. Do you have any music?”

Amy said that she had some of the music that would actually be played. “I stole a peek at the band’s list for the night. The crowd is mostly middle aged and the music is Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Andy Williams. Stuff like that.”

“Stuff you’ve never heard before I’ll guess.” Said Michael. Amy surprised him. “I like all kinds of music. I’ve heard the big band sound, jazz, and believe it or not when I play during the evening its soft piano music to the older tunes. It’s classy I think!”

That evening Amy brought some music out to the patio. The patio lights were on and the weather was warm with gentle breezes. She was giggling and excited with her plan. Of course she couldn’t wear the gown tonight. In fact she had put on her white Capri’s with a green t shirt. “No sense making him THINK I’m out to get him” she had told herself.

Michael stepped out onto the patio feeling like an idiot. Upstairs hidings behind the curtains were Jared, Miguel and Rafael in the study. Hiding downstairs behind the dining room curtains stood Briana and Liana. The laughter was all over the house.

Amy told him she had a Frank Sinatra song. “Strangers in the Night” to start with. “Well, that’s a good song.” He said. “I guess we can start” Amy stood in front of him like a mannequin. “Where do I put my hands?” she asked innocently.

“Don’t be silly Amy, I know you at least know that much.” Amy grabbed the back of his shirt with one hand and jammed her hand into his with the other hand. Michael laughed to release the nervousness. He moved Amy’s hand from his back and placed it on his chest. “This is how my father taught me to dance. No looking at your feet. In fact, take off your sneakers.”

“Take off my what?” Amy pretended to look shocked. Upstairs Rafael was in hysterics. Jared had doubled over in laughter. Miguel had to put his hand over his mouth as he was laughing so hard. Downstairs Brianna was beaming. Amy had never done such a good acting job in her life. She would have to repent to Michael later but this was the best comedy the family had ever seen.

“Your sneakers Amy, I don’t want you killing my toes. Now, just relax and glide with the music. Let me guide you. One to three, follow me, four five six just like this. Michael began to sway to the music and Amy followed. She stepped on his feet a few times on purpose. Amy was enjoying waltzing with Michael. She smiled up at him.

Michael was getting lost in Amy’s eyes. “Help me Lord! I’m her uncle! Keep my thoughts clear. I’m an old man. She is so beautiful, no, no, forgive me. But, it’s ok to think she is beautiful. I like holding her. Oh no, forgive, not good.” Michael was so busy praying for help he had no idea that the music had stopped and Amy was talking to him.

“I think if we try this with just two more songs I will get it right. Don’t you?” Her smile up at him left him undone. “What did you say?” he asked.

“I said I think I’ll get this down with maybe two more songs. Is that ok?” Amy was not sure if Michael was bored and wanted to leave or if he was suddenly nauseous. He had a strange look on his face that she hadn’t seen before. She went to her cd player and pushed a button. Andy Williams’s voice permeated the air as the song “Moon River” was played. Amy grinned at Michael. “This is fun isn’t it?”

Michael had to agree. “It sure isn’t my usual day! Let’s try this again.” The two waltzed around the patio. “I don’t have to give you the big dip do I?” Michael joked with Amy. Unfortunately for Amy though, she had no idea what Michael was talking about.

“Oh this could be fun! I’ll wait until the end of the song ok?” he said. Amy shrugged.

Rafael was still laughing from upstairs. Jared had gone downstairs to hear better from the kitchen window. Miguel could see all he wanted from the look on Michael’s face. “Ah yes, I remember that look when you met Liana. A combination of ‘help me I’m drowning and I think I’m in heaven’” Miguel and Rafael burst into laughter all over again.

Amy and Michael continued to dance and when the song was almost over Michael leaned her back so her hair nearly touched the floor. Amy screamed at the sudden movement and then fell into hysterics. Michael was laughing as he pulled Amy back up. “Now that my dear Amy is the big dip.” Michael was very happy and also asking for forgiveness. He just knew he shouldn’t be having these feelings for Amy. It was a roller coaster for him. One moment he thanked God for just having her in his arms and the next he was asking for forgiveness.

The music ended and Amy said thank you to Michael. “You’re a wonderful teacher!” Michael smiled and asked what the last dance music was. Amy turned around and pushed the button. Everyone in the family roared as Dean Martin’s voice sung out “Every Body loves somebody sometime.” Michael gave an odd look and told Amy that this would quicken their steps just a little. “No dipping!” shouted Amy. When Michael just smiled Amy wasn’t sure what he would do. “Instead of one two three, this one we’ll just do ‘one two’ back and forth. I’ll show you. When the dance ended Michael gave her a bow and told her she had nothing to worry about at the party.

Rafael and Liana stepped out to the patio and turned the music back on. “Let’s show them how it’s really done.” Amy and Michael sat down as they watched Rafael glide across the floor with Liana. At the end of the song Rafael did not dip his wife. He bent over and kissed her instead. By this time everyone was on the patio and they all applauded. As every one filed back into the house Amy gave Michael a quick hug and thanked him.

Michael nodded and silently went into the house. He was greeted by Jared and Rafael. Rafael spoke in his most serious tone. “Well, son how did the dancing lessons go?” Michael never caught his father’s humor. He just mumbled something and walked to his room.

A few days later Amy came downstairs with her gown on. She had her hair done earlier that day. It was up to one side with a spray of gold and silver fake flowers poked into the hair. She wore very little make up. The rounding stairway was painted white with gold trim. Amy looked like a scene from ‘Gone with the Wind’. As she glanced down she saw Michael at the bottom of the staircase. The family had gathered in the parlor and sat watching the scene play out. Michael was smiling and spoke first. “Amy, you look beautiful!” Just then the phone rang.

Rafael answered the phone and handed it to Amy. “it’s for you!” Amy turned away from her family and spoke into the phone. She became very stiff and Michael could tell that something was wrong. Amy hung up the phone and began to gather her things.

“What’s wrong Amy?” Michael asked. Amy was very angry because her escort had dumped her for the evening. She would have loved to have Michael as an escort but that would be too humiliating to have to ask. What should she do? She’d tell the truth and hurry off to the restaurant.

Amy turned around and explained. “Well, it looks as if my escort had a better offer. I’m going to have to go alone. Well, I’ll see you all later.” She turned to leave and had gotten to the door when Michael’s hand stopped her.

“Now see here young lady,” he said in his mock authorative voice. “You’re not going to that party alone wearing that outfit!” He had heard Brianna talk that way when Amy was fourteen and wanting to go to parties in ridiculous outfits. “I’ll only be a minute. Can you force yourself to be seen with a doddering old man like me?”

Amy’s eyes lit up and she smiled. “Do you mean it Michael? You wouldn’t mind?” Michael was ecstatic that she was happy. “Sure, just give me twenty minutes ok?”

Amy said “sure” and sat down in the parlor with her family. Rafael winked at Miguel. “What’s this about calling my youngest a doddering old man? What does that make me?” Amy laughed at his joking!”

“I never said anything like that to him. I don’t know where he gets these things. He’s only eight years older than me. It’s true I had thought of him as much older than me, but not anymore. He’s too childish. Do you know he still sneaks chocolate ice cream in the middle of the night?”

Brianna was quick on her feet. “And how would you know that?” Everyone was laughing. Amy cleared her throat. “Well, I was just coming down for a glass of water and here was Michael with a spoon and the entire box of ice cream on the table. I was the adult. I took out two bowls and we both had some.”

Everyone continued laughing off and on. Eventually Michael walked in wearing his tuxedo. Amy stared at him. She hadn’t thought to tell him it was black tie and tux. She had thought Michael was handsome but not like this. For a moment she just stared. Michael became uncomfortable. “Am I over dressed?’

“Wow, I’m going to lose you at the party for sure. The girls are going to go wild!” She laughed and beamed up at Michael. Michael only had eyes for Amy though.

“Not to worry Amy. I have my female repellent spray. Off we go!” Michael drove Amy to the restaurant in style with his black BMW. When they got there he ushered her into the restaurant and met with Amy’s coworkers. He could tell that all male eyes were on Amy. Her silver gown shimmered in the lights and the gold threading gleamed as sat down on the piano bench. He sat near the piano as Amy began to pluck at the keys. All of a sudden it dawned on him that Amy had real talent with a piano. The microphone was turned on and Amy began with a welcome to everyone. She then began to sing “White Christmas” and “Mary did you know”. The room was silent while hanging on to her every word.

Soon it was time for dancing and Amy left the piano. There was a band hired for the evening to play as well as Amy. Michael swung Amy around the floor to the waltzes. He was glad that Amy never stepped on his feet. In fact he realized that she was quite a good dancer. Neither of them noticed that several people had stopped to watch them dance. “Welcome to my world” was being played. Michael knew the words and sung them to Amy. Next came the time for people to make song requests. When one couple asked for a particular song, the band didn’t know the words. Amy stepped up to the microphone and said, “I think I can help out if the band backs me up!”

She belted out a song called “I will follow him” Her eyes stayed on Michael all through the song. “There isn’t an ocean too deep; a mountain high can’t keep me away! He is my destiny!” The applause lasted for five minutes afterwards. When the party was over Michael and Amy knew something had happened to them.

Michael knew he had to leave for a tour in another two weeks. He took a chance and asked Amy if she’d like to go with him. “I’d like for you to see what I do in my ministry.”

Amy and Michael talked for the rest of the evening after they had gotten home. Amy went upstairs to change into pajamas and Michael did the same. They sat downstairs in the kitchen in their robes with Rafael and Jared. Everyone thought it was a great idea. The next morning Amy went to talk to her mother. Jared had all ready spoken to Brianna. “I think this is God, Amy! I really do. I’m all for it. I know you will be supervised and no harm will come to you.”

Today Amy was excitedly talking to Michael about the upcoming ministry tour. “It’s not like you’ll be meeting people your own age. However, it would be fun to introduce you to the other side of the camera. Most people think of all the glitz when I’m up there playing the piano. Few would think of sound checks, lighting checks, and of course the constant waiting for the piano to be tuned. Then, there are the hours of practice. But, the lunches are fun. Brown paper bagging it used to be a favorite of yours.”

Amy was thrilled to be able to travel to three states as Michael toured. “Who will I be staying with?” she asked.

Michael responded “Well, in some cases we will be in a hotel. I’ve arranged for your room to be next to mine. Sometimes, we sleep in the bus. Of course it’s a coach tour bus with bunk beds, kitchenette, and living room. You’ll be surprised. There will be ten of us on this tour. There are two tour buses. You will be in the bus with Cindy. She is married to Dave, my manager. My manager Dave, Cindy who oversees ticket sales, myself and you. Cindy is 56 years old and is looking forward to another female on the tour. She and Dave have been married for years. It’s like going on a trip with my family. I’m sorry I can’t have you in the same tour bus as me Amy but it wouldn’t look right. We’ll be able to ride together during the day some times though.”

Brianna was pleased that Michael had agreed to Amy going with him. She had been at loose ends with Amy taking a year off before College. She knew Amy would be safe with Michael and also get a great music education. She also knew that if Amy and Michael were ever going to be a match, Amy had to see this part of Michael.

After Christmas season was over, Michael and Amy went to the college where Michael worked. He was retiring due to his feeling that he should spend more time with his music. Amy walked beside Michael in the long corridors and wondered what it would be like to be going to a college like this.

Michael entered the offices and signed all the necessary papers. Amy noted that several coworkers hugged Michael and were sad to see him go. Finally it was time to leave the college. “Before I drive straight home Amy, I’m going to stop over to Dave and Cindy’s. I want to go over the routine for this tour. Also, I want to be able to clue you in on a few things before we take off next week.” Said Michael.

Amy was pleased to meet Dave and Cindy. She was shocked to find that Michael had a whole other life besides his role in the Monterey family. Cindy made her feel welcome as she sat cups of coffee on her kitchen table. There was a stack of papers set before Michael.

“First of all Amy, I want you to know my routine each morning. We’re up at five a.m. Breakfast will be either a restaurant, or Cindy fixes something quick. I work out for an hour each morning. We carry my portable gym on the bus. I’ll share it with you if you like.” He said.

Amy was in shock to learn they got up so early but kept silent. Cindy added that they had prayer at ten a.m. together. However, Michael added that he still had alone time with the Lord as well. Each day they went over the plans for the next concert. “We go over the best places to park, who the crew was that they would be doing business with, etc.” Michael sat back and took a deep breath.

“Amy, there are many people who come to these concerts that want a piece of me. A piece of cloth, a kiss, a hug, a private word, etc. I do not allow anyone near me who is not on my staff or the business people of the place where we are going. I have body guards at each concert as well. Remember, there are usually around ten thousand people at the concerts. For that reason, if I give you a direct order to go here or stay there will you do it? If not, then you won’t be coming along with me. This is a safety issue.”

Amy nodded her head yes. “What if there is a spiritual need? You just walk away?” asked Amy. Michael told her that there was always a spiritual need and a counseling group from area churches on hand for that. “Remember, I am not an ordained minister. I am a Christian musician. I do some evangelizing while on stage as the spirit moves, but I am not able to do one on one in this type of setting. Some people don’t work the way I do and that’s fine for them. This is what our team felt God wanted us to do. We perform in huge civic centers. I had to weigh in on these matters long ago.”

Michael stopped to take a sip of water. “ I am part of the body of Christ, Amy. I lead worship and make a new song for my king. But, I do not want to lead anyone to worship me. That is why I have local pastors who can shepherd anyone who needs them. As you know from childhood the body of Christ has many parts. The local pastors are as important at these concerts as I am. In fact, if we find ourselves lacking in ministerial staff Dave makes phone calls to get them in. I often tell the audience this as well. ‘I’m there to point people to Jesus, but not become anyone’s idol.’ Now, if I were in a small church or in someone’s home I am free. There are many who would disagree with me, but I feel this is what the Lord would have me do.”

Cindy spoke for a while. “As far as the sleeping arrangements go, you will be bunking close to me, Dave and Michael while in the hotel rooms. On the road though, you share the bus with Dave and me and your body guard. This is so there won’t be any place for gossip. Michael is like a rock star in that the rag magazines would love to plant lies about Michael and you. I’m sure you have read about evangelists and worship leaders who have been in the tabloids after being exposed of sin. We are very careful.”

Dave began to speak for a while. “I understand that you play the piano? I’d like to engage you in helping with the sound checks. This will give Michael a chance to sip some coffee and relax. Plus, Michael wants to…oops! I guess he’d better tell you.”

Michael laughed and said, “Amy, I wanted to see if you and I could play piano together. I know you want to increase your study in music and was hoping you’d let me tutor you while we are on the road. I have a keyboard in the bus. What do you say?”

“Mom said that I was in for a few surprises. I didn’t think you’d want to waste your time teaching me though. I’d be happy just to watch the secret life you lead. As much as I know you it seems you are “the stranger of Monterey”.

Everyone sat still for a moment. “You think I’m strange?” asked Michael. “Oh, no”, said Amy.

“I hope you will see that I am a professional musician. The Michael you know has not changed Amy. I’ve had to adapt myself to this profession but then, everyone who works has to adapt to what they do. I will admit though that the hours are long. Also, you will have to listen as I get some negative feedback from each city we go in. My stand on a Christian life style has some labeling from the non Christian sector that’s not pretty. I am not upset to be screamed at. Once while in concert someone actually screamed out that I was a child molester and was gay. When you make a stand for Christ Amy, there sometimes is a price to pay. I don’t want you to be surprised or upset about this. Do you understand?”

All eyes were on Amy as she sat still while looking down at her feet. “I guess if you’re ok with it than I can be. Do they throw anything at you?”

Everyone began to laugh and said no. “Absolutely not, that would be rude!” Michael gave a mock serious face.

Amy began to laugh. Michael was a little uncomfortable. That is why he had Dave and Cindy go over these things with Amy. “I know it sounds strange but after the first few concerts you will understand.” Said Dave.

Michael went on to tell Amy that while he was on stage she was to be within eyesight of Cindy at all times. “No ducking out to use the restroom alone. We serve the Lord at these concerts and I believe we are protected by things we don’t even know about. However, we have learned through trials what works and what does not work. Before and after the concert we are escorted out of the building by the bodyguards. We usually have a late supper at some nice restaurant that has been secluded for us. Mind eating at 2 a.m.?”

“I’m not sure I’ll last that long.” She said. “Don’t worry, I always have string cheese or crackers available. Michael here once thought he’d pass out while his concert was just in the middle. How would we have explained that one.” Said Cindy.

“Here is a list of clothes to bring. Remember we don’t have a lot of room on the tour bus. We do have a washer and dryer though. Plus, if you forget anything I can send someone out to get it.” Said Cindy. “I’m the mother of this entourage.”

“Now, we want to show you the tour bus. It’s parked out back”. The four of them went out in the back where the tour bus was parked. Cindy went inside with Amy as the men stood outside talking. “I’m glad they’re outside. I wanted to explain it all without them. As you can see it looks like a mini house.”

Amy looked at the mahogany cupboards and countertops. “The counter tops are corion which is something new in tour buses. This bus is equipped with a microwave oven, refrigerator, and stereo system. We have a satellite dish in the front and rear so the TV can pick up stations almost anywhere.”

Cindy walked into a little hallway with curtains. She drew back the curtains and Amy spotted a bunk bed. This bus sleeps 12 people bunk style. These are privacy curtains. There are little televisions with earphones in each bunk space.”

Amy’s eyes grew wide at the thought of having to sleep with a curtain around her. She was a bit claustrophobic. “Umm, Cindy do I have to keep the curtain open?” she asked.

Cindy turned around and noticed Amy’s face. “Are you claustrophobic honey?”

Amy wasn’t sure if she was or not. “I don’t know. It just seems kind of closed in. I guess I’ll be all right” she said.

When Cindy and Amy got out of the bus Michael was beaming. “It’s really great isn’t it? A home and transportation combined. The rest of the crew just got here so I can introduce you.”

Amy looked over Michael’s shoulder at six people. “I know you won’t remember all their names today but anyway here goes. Amy this is Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, Doc, Sleepy, and Bashful. When they’re around I’m very Happy! Everyone broke out in snickers. Amy just stared at them. This was an old joke.

“It’s true Amy. I never call them by their names. They worked for secret service, some for FBI and Dopey here was one of President Bush’s body guards’. When three are asleep, the other three are looking out for us. Three go in the concert hall while three watch the tour bus. They have name tags that bear the very names I just gave you. Best of all though, they are Godly men and when they aren’t traipsing around with me they are leaders in their churches. They have families as well. Grumpy will keep you busy for hours going on about his kids.”

Amy was shocked to see this side of Michael’s life. She had no idea that so much went into his music. All of a sudden she wondered how Cindy could feed them all. “That means there are ten of us. Do you cook for all of us?” Cindy spoke up. “I make casseroles and freeze them to take with us. We eat out a lot too. But, it’s fun to sit down together and eat while on the road. It’s like family. Breakfast is fun. If we’re in a warm place I cook outside. However I have managed to pull off some decent meals in this mini kitchen. We seldom do lunch here though because that’s when everyone is working. Then it’s every man for himself. I’ll make sure you get something though Amy!”

It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the seventies. Cindy ushered everyone to her patio where there were extra chairs placed around. She had made sandwiches and offered cool drinks. As everyone was eating Michael took out his papers.

“First of all I want to know who is shadowing Amy. I mean I’ve told her not to leave Cindy or my sight but I still want a shadow for her. Sleepy spoke up. “I’ll take that assignment. Do you want me to drill her now or later?”

“Both” said Dave. “I’m sorry Amy but this is no little church excursion here. We attract all sorts at these concerts. You need to know some basics.”

Amy was becoming uncomfortable and asked if she could speak to Michael alone. Michael stood up and took her hand. He walked to the front of the house. “All this is a little overwhelming Michael. I had no idea you traveled like this. I just wanted to get the experience in music. I do not like the idea of having a shadow. It just feels strange.”

Michael sat down on the front porch swing and took a deep breath. He stretched his long legs and prayed silently. “Lord, she’s scared now, what on earth will she be like at the concert? What do I do? Show me.” He motioned for Amy to sit next to him.

“Amy, I am sorry you think I’m a stranger to you. I’m the same guy that you wrote to every week. I’m the same guy who wrote back. Do you remember what I told you?”

The two of them swung in the porch swing a while. Amy nodded her head. “I thought it was just going to be you. These people are strangers. The concerts are starting to sound scary.”

“Can’t you see though Amy? That is why I am letting you know what to expect. We are to be gentle as lambs but wise as well. We have to take precautions for safety. However, serving God in this capacity is my life. Without those guys I’d constantly have to be watching my back. I stood up for Christ a long time ago in a dramatic way. A foolish mistake I made caused my personal life to be a huge focus in this world. I dated a girl that I thought was as committed to Christ as I am. She wanted sex! When I refused the girl went to the press. They had a field day Amy! I have the support of the Christian community. I have the support of family. Best of all I have the Lord’s support. These people I travel with aren’t just body guards. They are also prayer partners.”

Amy grew quiet for a while and then remembered a story of picketers outside the concert hall. “I remember when you were on the news after a fight broke out with picketers. Does that happen every time you perform?”

Michael scratched his head. “No, the press only covers that bad stuff or it wouldn’t be news. As Christians one never knows from day to day. But, God has given us wisdom to know how to respond. I take precautions with these men. You have to remember that my father was once the governor too. That adds to the fact that we need bodyguards. For me, I grew up with them and it’s no big deal. But, this isn’t the big picture. The big picture is when God gives me the ability to write music and perform it. The big picture is when someone’s life is changed from listening to a song. Do you remember how my life was changed by one of your songs?”

Amy smiled. “That was so long ago. I was terrified to tell you the words of that song you know. I thought you’d, well I don’t know what I thought.”

Michael reached over and took Amy’s hand. “Amy, before we go on I need to tell you that you can talk to me about anything. Please don’t tell me you think I’m a stranger just because of a couple of body guards and a few rules of the road.”

The sound of laughter from the back patio drifted to the front of the house where they were sitting on the front porch swing. Michael was very serious as he looked into Amy’s liquid brown eyes. Amy saw a part of the Michael she always knew. Here was the gentle and generous Michael. She also saw a Michael that she never knew. Michael the man was much different than Michael her uncle or friend.

She looked down at her hand that was encased in Michael’s hand. Suddenly, on impulse she leaned over and snuggled his shoulder. Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He had been wondering if Amy was going to bolt for home. It would have been a long tour without her.

“Michael, I might need to talk to you alone a lot if that’s ok. Are you going to have time?”

Amy’s statement nearly knocked him over. “Yes, for you I will make time.” He felt very good all of a sudden. Amy looked up at him just as he was looking down at her. “Well,” Michael spoke out “can we go back and listen to what your new body guard has to say?” Amy nodded her head.

They walked back to the group hand in hand. Cindy gave Dave a quick elbow and whispered “I told you so!” Dave didn’t answer but he smiled back at his wife.

Sleepy’s real name was Edward. He was a gentle giant of six foot two. He had light blonde hair and a beach boy face. His suntan made him look like he was headed out for the surf. He began to speak. “Well, first of all just call me Sleepy! It fits as my mother used to have a hard time waking me up. Amy, I am a quiet shadow. Wherever you are standing you won’t hear me, but I am there. If you are in the concert and need to use the restroom go with Cindy. However, I will be near by as well. Don’t carry a purse or make up into the concert. Too easy for someone to either steal or slip something you don’t want inside. Anything you think you might need I will take care of via someone else. We stop at a lot of late night restaurants. Stay in our group. If you get tired and wander I will be there to bring you back. After the concert you will feel my hand on your arm or shoulder. I will speak so you know it is me. I will be ushering you out of the concert so fast you won’t believe it. Don’t be afraid to see I carry a gun. I only use it on girls who use too much perfume. Clears the air!”

Amy began to laugh as well as understand Sleepy. “If by any chance someone grabs hold of you, holler for me. Chances are I will have intervened by then. Keep your head down as we leave the building at night. I will guide you out.”

“Does Michael have to do this stuff too?” she asked. “Oh no, we carry Michael out on a pallet. Never mind anything but what I tell you to do. Everyone knows that you will be traveling with Michael. People will want to snap pictures or try to touch you. That is why I said keep your eyes down and follow my lead. You can get a bad headache from fifty cameras flashing in your face.”

The next two hours was spent going over the road maps and rechecking the schedule. Cindy brought Amy inside. “This is the easy part really. Once we are on the road they go over the people they are in contact with at the next concert. Then they go over the map of the building. Once we are at the actual concert they check the blind spots. Spots where a possible lunatic could be hiding or something. Michael however, has left all that stuff up to those six men. He is busy directing the stage hands as to where he wants the keyboard the lights etc. Then it’s time for the tuning and of course the sound checks that go on forever. Michael practices or writes music as all that is going on around him.”

“How does he do that with all that noise”? Asked Amy. Cindy shook her head. “ I have no idea. Michael did say he is going to have two keyboards this time as well. They are packed under the van. Well, once you see what goes on after two concerts you will have it all down.”

Michael told everyone that it was time to go. He hugged everyone and soon they were off down the road. Michael was humming a tune and Amy was going to sleep. She never woke up until Michael drove into the driveway.

Amy woke up to Michael gently shaking her shoulder. “Hey, let’s go in and find a better place to sleep.”

Amy slowly found her way to her room and got ready for bed. She was sound asleep in moments. Michael however, was downstairs talking with Rafael and Jared. “On one hand I’m excited to have Amy with me and then I’m afraid it will be so overwhelming that she’ll bolt for home. She was nervous meeting everyone today. I can tell she thinks I’m a little strange now too. We’ve done a good job of keeping her from the horrible tabloids but now she’ll be right there.” Jared sat back and thought for a moment.

“Michael, you can’t foresee everything that will go on with Amy. I’m sure she’ll be surprised at how you travel. Yet, you don’t travel twelve months out of the year. In fact, it’s usually only four months. She has some stars in her eyes about the glamour of it all. I think it’ll be good for her to see the reality. It’s a mission field really. You may not be in Africa or some foreign country but you have a mission with your music never the less.”

Michael put his head back against the sofa he was sitting on. Rafael had been thinking seriously as well. “One thing I want to remind both of you about though. Amy is a normal 19 year old girl. She is used to going to parties, having a lot of things to do and she is very out going. She is going to find your life style a bit confining. She may be a little rebellious even though she loves the Lord. I would advise the two of you to keep in constant communication with her. As her father Jared, you should phone her and ask direct questions about how she feels about everything. Be there in case she gets overwhelmed. Be there in case she gets full of herself as well.”

The room was silent for a moment. Michael was looking at the brass light fixtures in the room and wondering what his father was going to say next.

Rafael took a breath and leaned back in his brown leather chair. “Michael, before Amy leaves this house Jared and I want to know if you have feelings for Amy.”

Michael’s head popped up. “She’s my niece.” He said. Jared smiled at him. “It’s ok Michael. We’re not accusing you of anything. We just wanted to make sure you know something. Amy isn’t related to you in any way. Just because I married her gorgeous mom doesn’t mean you can’t have Amy.”

The room became silent for a while. No one had noticed that Miguel had slipped in and sat down quietly. “Do you want to know what this old grandfather thinks Michael?” he said.

All eyes turned to Miguel. His eyes were twinkling and his face showed all the love that was in him. “Yes, I always like to know what you’re thinking.” Michael replied.

“I believe the two of you are a perfect match. I also believe that she is the woman God intended for you. Now, you don’t have to admit anything to us. But, your father is right in discussing your feelings tonight. You will be taking an innocent girl away for a month. I appreciate the pains you took with the two buses, a female chaperone, and all. Do you love her Michael? It’s legally and morally acceptable if you do. You do not have to feel guilty about your feelings.”

Michael breathed a sigh of relief. Rafael nodded thanks to his father. His words were perfect.

Michael felt like he’d been both exposed and freed. “I guess I should admit it then. I do love Amy. Do you think I shouldn’t have her with us for the whole month?”

Jared reached over and patted his back. “I think the Lord has chosen her for you as well. Here is what I want to add. This is a special responsibility for you. Not a burden, but a new responsibility.”

“There will be times of temptation for you.” Said Rafael. “I would advise you to move gently with your relationship. Gently, but don’t take too long.”

Michael was sliding in his seat as he spoke to the three men who had always been his champions. He was thinking that few men had a father, grandfather and older brother so committed to his welfare as these men were. “Well, just knowing that I’m not a filthy old man with my thoughts of love for her helps a lot. Mind you, I wasn’t thinking of anything un…”

Rafael interrupted him. “Michael, we are men in this room. No explanation is needed. God planned for the attraction you feel for Amy. The responsible part is dealing with it. Your life has been spot lighted for some time now on a Christian stand that few would ever discuss. That is why I am saying that if the two of you care about each other, get married soon. There is no reason to get to know one another. You’ve know her since she was ten. You all ready know she is a Christian. The only new part is the awareness of each other in a new relationship. Pray about this but I think she will agree to marriage. I’d feel better if you had a wife on tour with you anyway.”

By this time Michael’s head was spinning. It was ok to love Amy as a woman. They could get married legally and morally. He sat back and grinned. “OK, so now what?”

Miguel laughed and said “Prayer of course! Plus, after you speak to Amy I think you should alert your six dwarfs so that they will help chaperone as well.” Everyone laughed. They prayed together and then called it a night.

In the darkness of their room Liana reached out to hold Rafael’s hand. “Well done my husband!” Rafael laughed. “OK, so where were you hiding this time?”

“You keep forgetting we put a register in the ceiling over the study!” The two lay in bed giggling for a while and then kissed good night.

As the days grew closer to the time of departure Michael spent more time with Amy. He was determined to not spend this time being tongue tied or nervous. One evening he decided to just come out and tell her how he felt. It was a rainy day and the family was home. “I want to take you for a ride.” He said gently.

Amy was getting bored as well so she agreed. Michael took Amy to a coffee shop nearby. They sat in a secluded booth that overlooked the ocean. As they watched the waves crash on the shore Michael took a chance and reached for Amy’s hand.

She was startled and looked up at him. “Michael, what is it? Is something wrong?” His shoulders were hunched as he reached across the table. She stared into his eyes and knew that he had something to tell her.

“Amy,” he said. He was now totally dry mouthed and took a sip of water. He could feel his own pulse and saw that his hand was a bit shaky as it held Amy’s. “I’m just going to come out with it. I’m not a coward. Promise me you won’t try to spare my feelings ok? Just be honest. OK?”

Amy looked across the table at this nervous man. Her first instincts were to comfort him. She nodded her head and squeezed his hand.

“I’ve fallen in love with you Amy. Do you think I’m too old for you? Could you see yourself married to me?” He swallowed as he waited for an answer.

“No,” said Amy. The room went very still. Michael went to let go of Amy’s hand but she held it tightly. He could feel h is heart drop to his knees. He took a breath and refused to get emotional. They were out in public and he wouldn’t embarrass Amy any further.

Amy felt like she was flying. She took both her hands and held Michael’s. “I don’t think you’re too old. And I’d love to marry you. I love you Michael. I have for a long time, but I had to get old enough for you.”

It took a moment for Michael’s breath to come back in. When his breath came back, he reached for the napkin and wiped off his sweaty forehead. “You’re saying yes, right?”

Amy leaned back in her chair and let go of Michael’s hands for a moment. She slowly smiled and got out of her chair and walked to Michael’s chair. Michael watched as she sunk to her knees and took his face in her hands. “When?” she asked.

“I didn’t think that far.” He said. “I was putting all my energy into asking.” He was smiling and reached over and kissed her. Amy put all her pent up love for Michael into a long soaring kiss. She sat back on her heels and watched Michael’s expression.

“Well, thank you Amy. But, don’t ever do that again!” he tried to speak as firmly as his shaky self could speak. “Not until we’re married I mean.”

Amy got up and took her seat. That is when the laughter and applause came to her ears. “What a scene I just made. I’m so sorry Michael. Not really!”

The two of them could hardly finish their meal. As they drove home holding hands Michael asked her if she thought one month would be too soon.

“You mean after the tour? Yes, I think that would be great!” Michael began talking rapidly about going on tour four months out of the year and often doing benefit concerts a few times a year as well.

Amy sat in silence and watched the trees go by as the car whizzed on down the road. Soon they were back at the mansion. They walked into the parlor and everyone but Jared was in the room. Michael took in the scene. It looked like something out of a movie. His parents were drinking coffee with Grandfather. Miguel was engaged in a lengthy funny story about days gone by. “I’m going to go get my brother. OK?” Michael whispered to Amy. Amy understood and nodded her head as she walked into the parlor and sat down.

Michael took the stairs two at a time and went to his brother’s office. He burst through the door so fast that Jared was startled. “Leave the door on the hinges will you? What’s up?”

Michael was grinning ear to ear and still didn’t want to break the news until everyone was together. “Can you come downstairs? I have something to say and I want you there.”

Jared looked down at the computer on his desk. He knew what Michael was going to say. He tried to act non chalant and shut down the computer. He slowly pushed his chair back and stood up. He was about to move around his desk when Michael met him with a bear hug! Jared looked into Michael’s eyes and saw brilliant shiny green eyes. Michael’s grin went ear to ear. Jared held his brother’s shoulders for a moment. “She said yes didn’t she?”

Michael was silent but held on to Jared tightly. “Just come downstairs first OK?” Michael began to giggle and Jared couldn’t believe his grown brother was acting so excited. He was excited for him. Quickly they descended the stairs. They were almost at a run when they came into the parlor together.

Jared stood next to his wife and waited for Michael. Michael and Amy stood up for her parents to sit down. After everyone was seated Michael and Amy started to speak at once. Amy quickly stopped talking and left the news up to Michael. The family began to laugh. “I asked Amy, and she said I’m not too old. She said yes, we want to do it here at the house next month.” Michael was talking so fast that at first Rafael wasn’t sure if he had all the details.

Rafael had a wonderful sense of humor. This humor had brought his family threw many crisis. “Well, you need to give me a few more details Michael. I’m getting older now you know. I’m glad to hear that you’re not too old however. You’re not too old for what? Also, what is it you wish to do here in my home next month?” Rafael kept a very straight face as he spoke to Michael.

“You know, get married. I’m not too old to get married.” Michael was still so excited he didn’t realize he was giving his father more fuel. “Well, son I’m glad to hear that you’re not too old to get married.”

Everyone in the room roared at this and Amy finally told Michael that she would finish. “Honestly Michael. How do you act so calm in front of an audience? Well anyways, we want to get married after this tour. I was hoping we could get married here in the mansion. Just a small affair, I want to wear a gown and all. I just don’t want hundreds of guests. Just family would be nice. Do you think you could help us with it Mom?”

Liana spoke up first. “Your mother and I will do all the work. You write out a list of who you want to be there. Michael, you do the same. Don’t worry about food or getting the house decorated. Which minister do you want?”

Michael and Amy looked at each other. “Can we have both?” Miguel smiled and said he would take care of that part. Jared spoke up as well. You have to choose a best man, bridesmaid, someone to give you away, and flower girls. If you’re going to do that route.”

Michael smiled. “We all ready talked about it.” Amy spoke up and asked Rafael if he would give her away. Rafael beamed and said he’d be delighted. Michael spoke to Jared and Brianna. I realize this is not conventional but would you two be our bride’s maid and best man?”

Brianna said, “Of course!” Michael then sat down and told them that they wanted the younger boys to be ring bearers. “Instead of flower girls we thought if the two of them carried a ring on a satin pillow it would be nice.” The family congratulated the couple and sat discussing plans for the wedding until supper.

The following week everyone was packed and ready to go on the buses. Amy had her cell phone and promised to call everyone regularly! Soon they were on their way to Kentucky. Michael got into his normal routine of working out in the morning and having everyone together for prayer. He had much to be thankful for as he spoke to the Lord alone on his bunk during the night.

Amy soon grew to know the routine of traveling. The bus stopped frequently for breaks. Michael had given Amy a keyboard to play around with while on the road. Amy had hours of time to play. She created new praise music as well. Michael continued to practice his work in the other bus. They were able to communicate through intercoms as well as cell phones. One day as Amy was playing her music Michael sat back and listened to her create things as she played. He remembered the little girl who seldom got words right as she sung. However, this Amy had a beautiful voice with a range from alto to high soprano.

“Show me your face Lord” Amy sang as she played the keyboard. She always sung totally uninhibited because in her heart she was singing to the Lord alone. Like Michael she was able to block out everyone while she played.

One day Amy was at the keyboard and could hear Michael at his own keyboard. He was playing something that sounded like his fingers were flying over the keys. Amy listened for a few moments and suddenly played the same notes only a few moments after Michael. The two were shadowing their music and the effect was amazing. Dave was sitting on the couch sipping coffee and listening to Amy and Michael play together. When Michael reached the crescendo, Amy slowed down and plucked gently at the higher notes. Once again they blended like it was something they’d done all their lives. In fact, they never played together.

Michael was shocked to hear Amy as he was playing. Amy was enjoying herself and forgot that Michael could hear her. When they pulled over for rest stop Michael hugged Amy and said, “You were fantastic. I’ve got to play that number with you on stage tomorrow!” Amy jerked back for a moment.

“What? OH, I forgot you can hear me! I don’t know Michael. What if I goof up?” She looked at him in innocence. Michael was sure she had no idea that her gift in music was amazing. She agreed to give it a try without too much coaxing. “After all, it’s for the Lord”.

When they arrived in back of the arena and parked their buses Amy was glad to have Sleepy nearby. They walked into the stage area and Michael began to explain where he wanted things. Amy sat near Sleepy as the men spent a few hours fiddling with wiring, lights, and then it was her turn to help with the sound check. This proved to be tedious and took a while. As she looked up she saw the body guards pointing out any strategic places that they may need to watch during the concert. Meanwhile, Michael was getting his music ready.

An hour later Michael was greeted by the local pastors who had agreed to assist with alter calls or prayer needs. There were twenty four local ministers and Michael spent time thanking them all. “I’m just a small lighthouse, I try to point folks to the Lord. You are the ones who serve this community after I’m gone though. That’s why my prayer team always asks God to send us local ministers to be here for these people.” The ministers understood and were happy to meet Michael.

Soon the group was back on the bus dressing for the concert. As predicted Amy was ushered in with Sleepy. She watched and listened for a while. The sound of shofars filled the arena. The group had prayed for this evening to be used by God to encourage and draw people to the Lord. Amy watched as Michael stood in front of his keyboard as the lights went down on the audience and up on the stage.

“It’s time to bless the Lord!” he shouted as his fingers flew over the keys. “In the deep deep places of my soul. I look to thee, I look to thee. When the world around me hurts me so. You’re there for me, you’re there for me.”

Amy lost herself in worship for a while and then Sleepy was gently touching her shoulder and smiling. “It’s time for you to help Michael out again.” He assisted her to the stage in front of her keyboard. Michael introduced Amy.

“Years ago when I was in a horrible place, a young girl reached out to God in a song for my freedom. I want to introduce to you that young girl. Her name is Amy.” Amy smiled at the applause. Michael played the familiar tune and once again Amy sang

“Please set Michael free

Father hear my plea

Bring him home to me

Set his spirit free

Let him magnify thee

Please set Michael free

Father hear my plea

It’s been so long

Since he’s been gone

Though he sits right next to me

Eyes once sparkled free

Now he seldom sees

Lord I see so well

Michael’s in a shell

Only you can make him see

Please set Michael free

It’s been so long

Since he’s been gone

Though he’s sits right next to me

Lord set Michael free”

Michael spoke gently as Amy sang. “Substitute my name for yours or anyone you know who needs Jesus touch.”

It was getting late into the evening and the local ministers were very busy. Amy could see the sweat on Michael’s face. She also noticed the tears as people were coming forward to ask for prayer. All of a sudden someone threw garbage up on the stage at Michael. The team went into action within seconds. The man was removed into the custody of local police who were there. Michael kept on playing like it never happened.

For the last piece of music Michael played what he called “God’s Grand Finale” His fingers flew across the keyboard and Amy sprang to life. She followed just a step behind Michael. It almost had the essence of “Flight of the Bumblebee”. When it ended with a gentle touch of Amy’s keys; the night was over.

Amy was being escorted by Sleepy down the hall when someone yelled up at the stage at Michael. Michael stepped off the stage with Dopey and the rest of the bodyguards circled the two. Within minutes the tour buses were started up and on the road. Amy had gotten a glimpse of the realities of Michael’s ministry.

She sat back for a moment. Sleepy was watching her close. “Are you ok Amy?” She shook her head yes. “I’ll feel better after a shower and some food”

Sleepy laughed. “I second that one. We’re bedding down in a hotel tonight. There’s a restaurant that’s waiting for us as well. As soon as we’re all showered it’s off to supper.”

Amy wondered what time it was. Almost in answer to her question Cindy came over and said it was 2 a.m. “We’ll sleep late and then get ourselves together for the next concert day after tomorrow. Did you have fun? You were terrific on that stage! What a voice on this lady, eh Dave?”

Dave was smiling and nodded his head. Soon they were at the hotel and Sleepy was taking Amy to her room. “Am I going to be by myself?” She wondered if Sleepy was going to have to stay with her. Sleepy laughed.

Michael’s room is next door and I’m on the other side of you. You can’t get away Amy so just forget it! Amy laughed at his humor and shut the door. It felt good to take a shower. The shower on the tour bus was small. It was amazing that there was so much crammed into such little space on that bus, Amy thought as she showered.

Soon Amy was dressed and ready to eat. As ordered, she waited for Sleepy or Michael to knock on her door. She opened the door after the knock to find Michael smiling down at her. “Ready to eat?” It was late and Amy knew he must be tired but Michael was charged with energy. “It’s the rush after the concert. Happens every time. That’s why we go to a hotel and shower and then go eat. Otherwise, we’d never sleep.”

The hotel was downstairs and Amy found that she was quite hungry. She sat eating and listening to everyone at the table. Soon she found herself dozing at the table. ‘Sleepy’ took her arm and suggested she make it a night. Amy felt like it was Jared as she was guided up the stairs. In fact she tilted up her face and gave Sleepy a smile. “You remind me of my Dad. I’ve had two fathers. Mine died when I was young and then Jared. In fact, I think I’ll call him tomorrow. Well, thanks for walking me. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Sleepy stood outside her door a moment and smiled. She had no way of knowing it but he remembered her father well. Jared and he were good friends.

The next morning Amy woke up around 10 a.m. Everyone else was still asleep. She took her cell phone out and called Jared. “Hi Dad! How are you and Mom doing?”

Jared was surprised that Amy didn’t phone Brianna first. “Your mom is right here, want to talk to her?” Brianna was handed the phone and Amy told her about her adventure. Soon she asked to speak with Jared again. “Do you have time to talk to me Dad?”

Jared set down his coffee cup and spoke into the cell phone. “What is it Amy? I’m here anytime you need to talk.”

Amy was sitting on her bed and lay back against the pillows. “Well, I just wanted to hear your voice. It’s kind of weird being with Michael in a different family setting. In a different place every night too. I’m glad he only does this one month at a time.”

“Dave and Cindy are glad too. They have families as do the other men. Sometimes the wives and kids drop in if they are near their town. You might get to meet more new people. That’s not a problem is it Amy?”

Amy was fiddling with the end of her pillow case. She took a breath answered “No, it’s just a little overwhelming to see all of this. Also, I miss you guys!”

Jared was delighted that Amy was candid with him. “Well, I’m so glad to hear that! We miss you too. Does this mean you’ll call us on a regular basis?” Amy smiled at the ceiling. “You know Dad, the phone works two ways!”

Jared laughed. “Well, I never know what you’re doing so I thought it best if you called home. By the way, Michael has always called our dad every day at some point. Don’t be shy Amy! I need to hear from you and I like being your dad. I also know that you are a lot like Michael. You both need to have us close.”

“Yeah, I guess your right. I like being with Michael too. It’s weird though Dad. One minute he’s my friend from years ago, the next he’s the older brother urging me to do more things and the next minute I just want to grab him and run away. Well,”

Jared understood more than Amy realized. “That is wonderful Amy girl. That just means the Lord has prepared you and Michael to be a team.”

Jared told Amy that the family loved her and hung up the cell phone. Amy got showered and dressed. Her bag was packed and soon a knock came to the door. Sleepy and Michael stood in the hall grinning. “Breakfast anyone?” The trio went downstairs to eat and soon the tour buses were on the road again.

Soon Dave was in Michael’s bus going over the routine for the next stop. The body guards looked at the outline drawings of the civic center. The civic center was in a rough section of town. The group spent the day in prayer over the next stop. Michael and the five bodyguards in one bus prayed, while Dave, Cindy, Sleepy and Amy prayed in the other bus. Sometimes the intercom was on and they prayed all together. At times they prayed in tongues. They decided to fast their lunch that day as they spent time seeking out what God would have them do. They prayed for His presence to be with them, and over all that was done in the civic center. They prayed for an outpouring of Christ for the area where they were to minister in worship.

Amy noticed that this was not a spirit of fear that made everyone pray. It was a strong sense that the Lord was calling his worship group to intercede before they arrived. They prayed that their time at the civic center not be seen as a rock concert but a time of worship and praise. Lastly, they asked for safety. They spent hours that day praising and thanking God as well.

It was a long ride from Kentucky to Indiana. The tour buses pulled into a camp area for the night before the final stretch of the journey. Cindy took out her camp stove and the men lit a fire in the outdoor stone fireplace. Everyone was in their parkas and jackets, but it seemed like fun. Amy helped set the table as directed by Cindy. Soon they were sitting down to a wonderful hamburger supper. Cindy had taken out two of her frozen raspberry pies as well. There was no left over food that night.

After all the food was taken care of Cindy and Dave sat with Michael and Amy in front of the fire. Dave slipped his arm over Cindy’s shoulder. “You are a wonderful cook Cindy. Have I told you that you are wonderful at so many things?” Cindy smiled and snuggled into Dave’s arms. Michael and Amy were so busy talking and hugging that they never heard Dave or Cindy.

Sleepy and Doc were playing a game at the picnic table and keeping an eye on the group at the same time. Sneezy was on the phone with his daughter and Dopey was reading a book in the bus. Grumpy was also on the phone. His wife was telling him all about her day with the plumbers at their home. Bashful was sound asleep in his bed. He had driven most of the day. It was a peaceful night for the group.

Michael looked around at the fire, the stars, Amy, the buses and felt peaceful and yes ‘Happy’.

The next morning they made their way to Indiana and set up at the civic center. Sleepy was ever watchful of the area and Amy. “Don’t go wandering off Amy!” She was getting used to his reminders. “Just you don’t go wandering off!” she said. They were quickly getting a close relationship. Sleepy had showed her his family pictures and even had her talking to his wife Celia. Celia was a part time Christian comedian. She had Amy in hysterics one day on the bus. Amy was looking forward to meeting her at their next concert.

Bashful, Dopey and Grumpy were out monitoring the bus. While inside the usual routine of Michael handling where he wanted the equipment placed and Amy helping with the sound checks continued. They realized that there needed to be a few electrical cords changed. This was not because of their equipment. It was something that the civic center was in charge of.

Amy stood off to the side after the sound checks were done. Cindy was standing near her and Sneezy had just come back from the restroom. All of a sudden a spark went off from a ceiling light and something fell on Amy’s head. She fell off the stage and laid on the ground level. It was a twenty five foot drop.

Sneezy watched the entire episode unfold in slow motion. He froze on the spot. Michael was at Amy’s side in an instant. Amy was unconscious momentarily. She awoke to Michael shouting at Sleepy. “I pay you to watch her! Where were you? You’re fired! Just get out of my sight!”

Sleepy stepped back and swallowed. Cindy went charging at Michael. “Get a grip Michael! He was in the restroom. No one could have foreseen this! Calm down!”

Michael didn’t hear anything because he was yelling for an ambulance. Soon Amy was in the ambulance with a cool compress on her head. She had a three inch gash on the back of her scalp. She awoke after being stitched up in the emergency room. Soon everyone followed the gurney to a private room.

Cindy took Sleepy’s arm and walked to Amy’s bedside. She glared at Michael and dared him to deny Sleepy’s access to Amy. Michael stood quietly and glared at Sleepy.

“I’m ok,” she said to Sleepy. She took the big man’s hand and kissed his knuckles. “It’s not your fault. It was a fluke accident.”

Sleepy squeezed her little hand and took a moment to speak. “I’m glad you’re all right little one. It’s been a pleasure to be your body guard. I’ll see you later.” Sleepy turned and left the room.

Amy was quick to register what just happened. “Michael, you go fix this with him or I’ll never marry you!” Michael stood at attention for a moment. His face lost more color and his eyes were huge.

“What did you say?” he asked. “You heard me; you go make this right with him. I won’t have anyone else as my body guard. If he goes, then so do I. I won’t marry a man who fires people for no reason. You go fix this NOW!”

Michael exited the room and ran down the hall. In his heart he knew that Amy was right. It had hit him the moment she had said “Go fix this”. “How on earth did I get so off track? I’ve been fasting and praying and asking the Lord to take over. Then, I fire Ed just because Amy fell.” He met up with Sleepy as he was getting on the elevator. “Ed wait! Please, I had no right to speak to you like that! I’m sorry Ed. Please don’t go! Amy said she won’t let anyone else be her body guard and she won’t marry me if this doesn’t get fixed. Please, forgive me?”

Sleepy had thought Michael would probably apologize. He wasn’t leaving the hospital but going to get some coffee. “I’m going for coffee, want to come with me?”

Michael followed him and they sat down with coffee. “I can’t believe I was that awful to you Ed. Please forgive me.”

Sleepy reached out and took Michael’s shoulder. “I guess I can forgive you. After all, I don’t want to be the reason for a marriage to break up before it even starts.” He was grinning at Michael. “Did she really say that to you?”

Sleepy sat back in the cafeteria chair and stretched out his long legs. He was beginning to feel the tiredness that comes after an adrenaline rush. The cafeteria was mostly quiet at this moment of the day. His stomach told him he was hungry, again. Michael watched his friend’s eyes wander to where the food was. A sandwich sounded like a good idea to Michael. “Do you want to have a sandwich with me?”

“Well, I thought you’d never ask.” As the two sat eating their meal they noticed that people had come streaming in. Soon each table had someone sitting at it.

The cafeteria was crowded and Michael had to speak louder than normal for Sleepy to hear him. “Yeah, Amy said she wouldn’t marry a man who fires people for no reason. She said she wouldn’t have any other body guard too. I really feel terrible. I was just so scared seeing Amy on the concrete and not moving. I thought..” His voice choked and he could no longer speak.

Sleepy rubbed his shoulder again. “You couldn’t have yelled anything at me that I wasn’t all ready saying to myself Michael. When I came on the scene I thought I was going to lose it there.”

The two men relaxed and talked a while. Sleepy had called his wife and she was to meet him that night at the hotel. He booked a room at the end of the hall for privacy. Michael arranged for Grumpy to take Sleepy’s room and shadow Amy for a while to give Ed some time with his wife. The two took the elevator back up to where Amy was. Amy was glad to see the two of them together. Michael went over and kissed her. “I love you Amy.” He said.

Amy responded with a huge grin. “So, do I get Sleepy back or not?”

Sleepy sat down and spoke. “Well, yes and no. I hope you won’t be mad Amy. I asked my wife Celia to fly in and we’re going to spend some time together. Grumpy is taking over my station. It’s only temporary. Don’t go breaking off the engagement. Michael and I are fine.” The big man looked down at his hands and smiled. “I just wanted to see Celia.”

Amy assured him it was fine. The nurses came in and announced she had to spend the night at the hospital for observation. She had had stitches in the back of her scalp from the cut she obtained in the fall. The light fixture had broken and Amy was first hit by the huge light and then fell into the broken glass. The CT scan results came in and it showed that Amy’s skull wasn’t fractured and no other problems presented themselves. She did have a concussion though.

That night Ed and Celia walked down the hall to their hotel room. Ed and Celia held hands and were silent until the door to their room was closed and locked behind them. Ed leaned against the door and Celia flew into his arms. Ed reached down and picked his wife up to hold her closer. He bent his head and buried his face in her neck. Her arms and legs wrapped around him. “Celia thanks for coming.” Celia was kissing his neck and face. The two had been married for several years. They had met when they were both FBI agents. Few people knew that Ed had been shot while trying to protect a young woman. The woman had fallen from scaffolding to her death on a concrete floor. Celia knew that Ed needed comfort as he had briefly relived that horrible night. Celia had prayed to the Father to show her how best to comfort her husband. As they lay together in bed in the darkness of their hotel room, Celia held him as he took a deep long shuddering breath. As a writer, I realize that words can act like a camera. The camera shuts off at this point allowing the married couple their privacy.

While Sleepy had taken off for the airport to pick up his wife in a rental car, the rest returned to the civic center. The old adage “The show must go on”. A few thousand people were arriving soon. Michael determined to put the Lord first before Amy and ministered in praise and worship. He was greeted first in a room with 30 local pastors. They prayed together and took their places as the body of Christ.

The lights went up and Michael felt the Lord’s presence as he gave the Lord his all. The sound of people singing along with Michael’s music filled the air. Michael sang the song that had taken him from the youngest of the Monterey family to the Christian Music top ten lists those years ago. “Mike the Knight” He began to minister between the songs. “Remember, the Power of the Living God resides here tonight. Don’t look at your circumstances, look up!”

As usual Michael played Amy’s song. When he gave the alter call at the end he thought he heard thunder. Hundreds were making their way to the platform where the local pastors were ready. Some pastors in the audience came alive as well as the front could not hold them all. This was planned in case of a huge alter call. The pastors from the audience numbered 26 and there was announcement that folks could go in the back of the civic center as well. Michael caught his breath as he looked at the seats with the lights up. Never had he seen so many empty seats.

When it was all over they met with all the local pastors and were given the number of people who had asked the Lord into their hearts. Five hundred souls had been saved that night. Michael and the rest of the body guards and Dave and Cindy were all in tears. They drove to the hospital at three a.m. With permission, they woke up Amy. Amy began praising God from her bed. “So many people think it’s about the money!” Michael choked out. “Amy, this is the reason I do this. Can you understand?” Michael wanted so much for Amy to want this life as much as he did.

Amy hugged Michael and told him that she wanted to be part of this ministry team. “Oh sweet heart! You all ready are!”

The next day Amy was released and the group was back on the tour buses. Amy had medicine to take and Cindy made sure her head had a clean bandage. It took a few days to get to the next stop on their tour. This gave Amy’s head wound a chance to heal more. Her vital stats were taken every four hours by Dopey. He was a paramedic.

As the group traveled they went through the normal routine of paperwork. Michael was still on a high adrenaline rush from the last concert. “I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do next!” Michael lifted his weights for half an hour and then took out his portable gym. His hair clung to his head in black curls. He was surprised when his timer went off to tell him his work out was over. He was feeling a lot of energy.

After his portable shower he sat back and began his time alone with the Lord. He felt an unease regarding Amy. He sat quietly and listened and heard nothing. He pressed in with prayer on her behalf. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He took his cell phone out and phoned her. “Amy, Hi”

Amy answered abruptly. “Michael, I’m tied up right now. I’ll call you back.” Amy had been playing chess with Dopey and her focus was not to be deterred. Soon, the bus was making a rest stop.

Michael was in a panic. He was also angry that Amy hadn’t called him. Amy exited the bus and he walked quickly over to her. Amy looked up and saw Michael descending on her with a very angry look on his face. His green eyes were almost black. “So, you forget to call me back?” He shouted at her.

Amy tried to explain that she had forgotten. This only made Michael angrier. Dopey spoke up. “Whoa, she was playing Chess with me. Calm down man! You’re losing control!”

Michael froze and closed his mouth. He turned around and went into the rest stop. For the remainder of the day Michael kept silent. He didn’t pray, he was seething with anger.

As they approached the next town Michael made sure Amy knew that she was to stay in her hotel room and not leave until she heard a knock on the door. This wasn’t a new game plan but Amy was shocked at how angry Michael still seemed to be.

When she tried to approach him he seemed distracted. “Michael”, she said. “I told you I was sorry I didn’t call you back. I was just having a lot of fun!”

Michael was losing his steam and became aware that his behavior was out of the ordinary. He looked down at Amy. She was so beautiful and he had no idea why he was so quick to jump lately.

“Listen, I’m just working through some things. I don’t know why I’m ready to jump at people Amy. This is our last concert and we head for home. Next week we get married. I’m not making sense. Not to myself anyway.” Michael stood against the bus and tilted his head up. He was watching clouds and birds.

The theatre where Michael would minister was the largest and most beautiful that Amy had ever seen. The halls had been decorated to look like a street in bible days. There was the smell of roasted chestnuts. The seats in the stadium were soft and red. The walls were gold with pictures of bible scenes and lions. The surround sound was such that you could hear a pin drop.

Soon they were setting up for the next night. This was a special treat because it meant they could go out to a nice dinner in town and get to bed early. Amy watched as local pastors made their way to where Michael and Dave were standing. Soon they had their plans together for the following evening. A young woman in her early twenties came over and spoke to Amy. “Isn’t this place too much?”

Amy nodded. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” Soon the girls became friends. Amy found out that the woman worked there on her college break. She invited Amy to go to a party that evening.

“I know it’s weird because you just met me. My father is Pastor Roberts. I’m Sandy. The party is at his, I mean OUR home tonight. Just a few college kids from our church.”

Amy thought about it and wanted to go. She knew that Michael would forbid it though. “I’m sorry but the group sticks together when we’re on tour like this. Michael wouldn’t appreciate me going off by myself.”

After their early supper, everyone went to bed early. Amy sat watching the news when she heard a soft tap on the door. A white envelope was slid under the door. Amy was surprised that it was a note from Michael. “Amy, I spoke with Sandy and she told me her dad is opening his house for a few college kids tonight. They’re just watching a movie and getting pizza. I’m bushed but you’re free to go if you want. Love you, Michael.”

A few minutes later Amy was in the passenger seat of Sandy’s car. Sandy was dressed in a short skirt with a lot of make up. Amy hadn’t noticed it until they were at a red light and the light shown on her face. Amy began to wonder about this.

Soon Sandy was parked at a well lit night club. “OK, so I lied. But, your going to have a wonderful time and no one will ever know.”

The music was loud and Amy was given a drink without asking for one. She watered the plastic plants next to her with her drink. Soon, she was dancing with someone she didn’t know. She quickly disengaged herself and went to sit down at a table. Sandy and a few other women were seated around her. They were talking about Michael. The laughter began as they mocked some of the things he had said while being interviewed. “I’m simply making a stand” Honestly Amy, how can you stand it with him. Traveling all over with a gorgeous guy who never touches women!”

Amy laughed out of nervousness. She never would tell them she was marrying the man next week. Suddenly she was blinded with flashes. She saw camera men and more flashes. Amy didn’t know which direction to go but she knew she had to go. She picked up her bag and ran for the exit. Quickly she grabbed her cell phone and punched in Michael’s cell phone number.

A wide awake Michael answered. “Hello Amy!”

“Michael, please come get me! I’m at a disco on Fairmont Street. I’m scared Michael! She was supposed to go to a party at the pastor’s house.”

By this time Michael’s eyes were wide and he was busy alerting Grumpy. Grumpy took the phone. “Amy, are you outside now?” Amy told him yes.

“Good, can you see a policemen or bouncer?” Amy looked around at a parked police car. “Well, there’s a police car parked a few feet away. Why?”

“I want you to go over to him and tell him you need help. I want you to then give him the phone because I need to speak to him.”

Amy did as she was told. The policemen gave Amy her phone back and then drove her to the police station. “Don’t worry, your safe. The FBI agent will be here shortly.”

Amy’s jaw dropped. “FBI agent?” She thought. “Wait, Michael had said that I didn’t need to know who they were. They were Christian men though and leaders in their church.”

Soon Grumpy came in and spoke to the policemen. In a short time Amy was escorted to the hotel.

Amy was led into her room and Michael sat at the small table. Grumpy told Michael that he would wait for him in the next room. After Grumpy left, Michael put his head in his hands. “Why did you leave the hotel room without telling anyone?” Michael’s voice was hoarse and it was obvious he was upset.

Amy suddenly realized that she had been duped. She fished in her pocket and pulled out the note that had been slid under her door. She handed the note to Michael. “What’s this?” he asked.

Well, I had met this girl Sandy at the theatre earlier. She invited me to a party and I said no. She said her dad was a minister and he was opening his house up to a small group of college girls. Anyhow, I explained that we travel in a group while on tour. Then later, this note slid under my door. I thought you knew her. I thought you knew..” Amy’s lips quivered and she sat down.

Michael opened the note. “I would never give you a note Amy. He got up and took Amy in his arms. “I don’t know what game she was playing Amy! After getting you out of the hospital and then this. How can I keep you out of trouble?”

Amy’s brown eyes were filled with tears that were spilling over as Michael took her face in his hands. “I’m sorry. I thought it was ok. Then I saw the make up, and then she took me to that night club. I was in shock and then I remembered I had my cell phone. Michael, it was horrible!” There was a knock on the door and the rest of the group came in. Michael continued to hold Amy but handed Grumpy the note.

Everyone seemed to understand what happened. “Listen, how about letting Amy get some sleep and the rest of us meet in the other room. She needs to calm down. Cindy, will you stay with her?”

Cindy nodded her head and made some tea for the two of them as the men left. They turned on the news.

There she was in living color. They had been like scavenger birds looking for a morsel. She had supplied all they wanted. They had made it seem like she joined in the laughter regarding Michael’s celibacy. She stared into the T.V. unaware of how loud she was crying. Cindy put her arms around her and rocked her back and forth.

A soft knock came to the door. Cindy opened the door to the group. Michael went to Amy and held her. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I messed up!” Michael spoke first in a barely audible choked voice. “It’s all right Amy. I forgive you.” Amy kept crying in Michael’s arms. His manager then told Amy that perhaps she should go home.

“I’m not sure how much damage control I can do. I’m thinking I’ll go with the fact that you are young. If former Pres. Bush’s daughter can go out on the town, why not you? I’d love to sleep on this but unfortunately we’ll have to deal with the press early in the morning. So, what do you think?”

Amy straightened her posture as she sat. “I’d like to speak alone with Michael. If we get dressed can we go downstairs? The restaurant is open all night.”

“Out of the question Amy!” the manager spoke up. The press is up and waiting for just such a thing. Unfortunately, if you want to speak to him it will have to be now and here in front of me and my wife.”

It sounded so humiliating. Then, Amy remembered how people had been laughing at Michael’s most personal life. What must this man have endured these past few years? She owed him a public apology. “All right I’ll talk now. I don’t really want to go home though.”

Cindy had been sitting quietly and suddenly perked up. “Maybe it’s time to meet the press head on.”

Michael didn’t know what to think. “I think we’d better phone home and explain things first. Let’s get their opinion.” Michael pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number. In minutes everyone at the mansion had spoken to both Michael and Amy. They had prayed together as well. When they were finished everyone got up to leave. Michael hung back. “Could you two wait outside the door?” Dave and Cindy nodded.

When they had left the room Amy held her breath. She wondered if Michael would eventually send her home. Michael took a deep breath.

“Amy, come here please.” Amy walked into Michael’s arms. “When I saw the video of you laughing with the rest I noticed you weren’t laughing with your eyes. You were scared, I could see it.”

“I know you feel awful Amy. How well do I know you Amy?” Michael asked. “I need to sit down and find out exactly. I thought I knew, but I’ve made assumptions before. Who are you Amy? What do you honestly think of Christ?”

Amy sat down on the edge of the bed and then stood up abruptly and went to the little table in the hotel room. Michael sat across from her. It wasn’t a romantic setting at all. The bedroom overhead light showed every tired line in Michael’s face. His hair was wet from perspiration and clung to his face. His hands trembled slightly as he folded them on the table. He waited for Amy to speak.

Amy bent her head in silent prayer and then looked up. “I want to begin a long time ago and fill you in on my faith up till now. Is that all right?” Michael nodded and put his elbows on the table. He began toying with some tourist papers as he listened.

“My father, who was my real father, was a wonderful Godly man. My earliest memories are of him taking me up in his arms and wandering around the house. One day he sat me on his knee and explained that he might have to go away soon. I didn’t have any idea what that was. He told me the story of Jesus. He told it so clearly that I felt like it was Jesus holding me and not my father. I remember being in tears when he told me that Jesus died. He had painted a picture so clearly with his words that I felt as if I could reach out and touch Jesus, the man.” Amy sat back and smiled at her father’s ability to teach.

“I asked Jesus into my heart that day. Three months later my father died. The grown ups were all crying and I knew my father wasn’t coming back. I went out in the yard and looked up and said hello to my father. I felt strange. I remember sitting on the swings where Dad had played with me. I just looked down at the ground. When I looked up I saw an angel. It wasn’t the sort I’d seen in pictures. No wings or halo. This angel was covered in sparkles from head to foot. He reached out and took me in his arms. I knew it wasn’t my father, but I didn’t know who he was. When I asked him, he just smiled and told me he was a messenger of God. Jesus wanted me to know that everything was going to be all right. I stood there wrapped in his arms for quite a while before I grew tired. My mother found me asleep on the grass.”

Amy waited to see if Michael thought she was lying. “Is it ok to go on or do you think I’m a liar?” Michael nodded with a slight smile. “Well, I don’t really know how we came to be at the governor’s mansion so fast. Perhaps it wasn’t like that, only its how I remembered it. But, the next thing I knew I had a new yard to play in. I was sitting on the grass one day and I remember crying because I didn’t have my swing anymore. Do you remember that day?” She was hoping Michael would remember.

Michael sat back and tried to remember and soon it all came back. “Oh, yeah you were crying and I asked what was wrong. You said you missed your swing but since your father died you had to come here and there wasn’t any swing. I remember you asked me if it would be all right if you asked God for a swing. You were so beautiful Amy; those huge brown eyes were so trusting. I sat with you as you asked Jesus for a simple little swing so you’d feel like your father was still around. Boy, you were so precious that day.”

Amy sat staring into space. “Well, you remember that a swing set appeared soon after. I began to keep talking to Jesus after that. When I was in church I couldn’t always understand the sermons or even the Sunday school teacher’s lessons. I used to go to Grandfather and he’d spend hours teaching me in a way that I could understand. He was one of the greatest influences in my life after that. All through school and even high school I would run to him with any problem. Now, I don’t mean YOUR grandfather, I mean Rafael.

Jared was wonderful too. He told me that just because he had twin boys, no one could take my place in his heart. He wanted to make certain that I knew he loved me the same as the boys. Mom and your family directed me to Christ. I remember one day grandfather walked outside as I was talking to some friends. I was about fifteen. They were talking about smoking weed and invited me to go to their house to try it. Well, your dad spoke up and they all scrambled. That’s when your dad, or to me [grandfather] explained that I had many choices to make in life. But, I couldn’t count on my family’s faith in God to save me from sin. I had to have my own relationship with Jesus. He asked if I took my faith seriously or just when it was convenient. I had never thought of it. It took a few weeks but I kept thinking about what your dad said. That’s when I decided that I had been given a priceless gift of the knowledge of Jesus. But, just the knowledge wasn’t enough for me. I wanted the close relationship that I could have only by reaching out to Him to receive it. It was great to have our family, but in the real world we have to have our own relationship with Jesus to go by. So, I went for it. I may not know everything Michael, but I know this one thing. Jesus is worthy of my praise. I had a feeling you might not want me after the stunt I pulled. But, I knew that if our life wasn’t to be together as a married couple then Jesus would have a greater plan. Does that answer your question?”

Michael nodded and asked another question. “What do you think of my testimony for Christ? Do you think I’m an odd person? Am I strange? Do you understand me Amy? Can you live with a man like me?” Michael was looking down and feeling very naked in front of Amy. “All my life I’ve lived for only the Lord’s approval. Somehow though, your approval means more to me than I realized.”

Amy reached across the table and tugged on Michael’s hand. “I admire you. I think the Lord speaks through you and to you. I believe you’ve chosen the narrow road to walk for Jesus. I also believe that God means for us to be together. You have my heart Michael. I have always loved the gentle and thoughtful heart of you. I’ve come to know that you are also the strongest man I’ve ever known emotionally. I would follow you anywhere.”

Michael looked his future wife in the eye and stood up. “I guess that’s all I needed to know.” He reached out and gave her a slight hug. He found his arms tightening as he didn’t want to release her. “I, uh, oh Amy I love to hug you!” Michael buried his head in Amy’s hair for a moment.

Amy hugged Michael tighter and then tilted her head so she could see his face. “I love you Michael. I love the fact that you stick with your decisions and live a life that is sometimes ridiculed. It dawned on me tonight how often you’ve had to face the press because of your beliefs. If you’re wondering if I approve of the man you are, then the answer is yes.”

Amy reached up and gave Michael a kiss that betrayed her pent up love for him. Michael stepped back and looked at her. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Michael’s green eyes sparkled as he realized God had given him the perfect woman. His face was in a permanent grin as he went to the door. After Michael opened the door he looked out to see a crowd.

Amy was hugged by everyone. Dave put his arm around Michael’s shoulder “ Now, may I escort you to your room Michael? We have to discuss a plan and Amy; you need to look your best for the cameras.”

An hour after Amy was in bed her cell phone went off. Michael wanted to talk to Amy. If it took him all night he wanted to make sure all was indeed well. “Hello?” Amy spoke timidly.

Michael swallowed and answered Amy’s hello. “Listen; there are a lot of things that are going to happen tomorrow. This is deeper than it seems. That girl who said her name was Sandy? She’s not a preacher’s daughter.”

Amy figured that to be true. “Do you know her Michael?” Amy stretched to her left and turned on her bedside lamp. She fluffed her pillows and sat up. This would be a long talk.

“Her name is indeed Sandra. I dated her a few times. She was a big mistake of mine. She pressured me to have sex with her. No matter how I explained it, she was adamant. I took her home and told her we wouldn’t see each other again. After that, she went to the press. This whole charade tonight was a stunt she pulled. The press was waiting because she said she had this huge story about my companions. She wanted to expose you as being a drunk, or worse. She never thought you’d run.”

Michael took a breath before continuing. “Grumpy ran her picture and sure enough she is wanted for trying to extort money from other Christian musicians. She’s got a whole group to help her pull stunts. This time we want to expose her and put her away. We’ve contacted four other Christian musicians who have been hurt by her. They are flying in tomorrow to corroborate what we all ready know.”

Amy couldn’t believe her ears. “Amy, are you there?” Michael was getting nervous with the silence.”

“I’m still here. I can’t believe I caused all this.” Amy’s voice was just above a whisper. Amy was overwhelmed.

“There’s one other thing Amy. The concert has been cancelled. I spoke with those in charge and they felt that because of the publicity it would be better if we came back in a few months. So, I want to know for sure if you still want to marry me.”

Amy’s hotel room felt like it was spinning. “Still? Nothing has changed with me except I pulled a stupid stunt. You can trust me Michael, that won’t ever happen again.”

Amy didn’t know it but the guys and Cindy were with him. “Amy, do you have your heart set on a huge wedding?”

Michael was sounding strange and Amy answered quickly. “You big dummy, I hate big weddings. I thought we’d established that!”

Amy waited a second to hear Michael’s reply. “Well, it’s like this. Your parents and mine are flying in tomorrow along with the twins and Grandfather. Would you marry me tomorrow at the place where we were to perform? I’ve spoken to both Rev. Doyle’s and they are flying in tonight. Your dress is coming; the owner of the “Palace” is decorating as we speak. Oh, did I mention that the owner of the palace is my cousin?”

Amy was thrilled. “Tomorrow is great! What about the press though?”

“Funny thing, they all asked if they could be there. We’ll have the best wedding pictures anyone ever had. Only the photographers are allowed in. But after wards you and I are holding a huge press conference along with the guys, Cindy and Dave. Sound exciting enough for you Amy?”

Michael only heard giggling and he had Cindy bring him to Amy’s room. The two hugged and kissed and Cindy cleared her throat a few times before Michael backed away.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Amy!” Amy was surprised to be so tired again. She slept until she heard a knock on her door. She got up and opened the door for Brianna and Liana. “Well, my dear! Time to suit up! Grandmother has croissants and coffee first.” The women ate at the small table in her hotel room. Amy couldn’t believe this was really happening. Soon she was adorned in white satin with pearl beads.

The dress was sleeveless with a short scoop neckline. Liana handed Amy a bracelet. “This bracelet is over a hundred years old. It was Michael’s great grandmother’s. It’s from Grandfather. Amy thought she’d never seen such a delicate bracelet. A gold band with tiny lettering. Amy couldn’t quite see the writing. Liana knew it well. “Amore”

Brianna gave her a gift of pearl earrings to match the dress. Liana brought her pearls for Amy to have something borrowed. When the two women were finished Amy was astonished to see the result in the mirror. “Oh wait, what about shoes and my hair?” Liana laughed. “See Brianna I knew she’d think of it sooner or later. Here my little sweet. You used to play dress up in these. She reached around and took out the white satin low healed shoes.”

Amy laughed as she remembered those times so well. “I was always dreaming I was going to grow up and marry Michael. Who knew?” Liana grinned and confessed that according to Grandfather, he knew!

Brianna was a whiz with hair and within minutes Amy’s hair was atop her head snuggled into the tiny Tierra she had chosen herself.

Michael was finished dressing and in a state of euphoria as the men entered the ‘Palace’. Rafael was pleased to have both sons and his father present. They wore white tuxedos with blue carnations on their lapels. It was going to be a memorable day for the Monterey family. “God is good!” the men echoed as they took their places. The twins were settled as well with blue satin pillows.

Soon it was time to start. Both Rev. Doyle’s stood at the front of the palace. The traditional wedding music sounded through the entire theatre. Amy’s hand shook as she held the blue carnations Michael had sent her. She had something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Rafael put out his arm and Amy clung tightly. “Thank you for being my grandfather” she said as she looked up at him. Rafael was beaming. He looked down at her and told her that he loved her.

As Amy looked into the theatre she was astonished to see her biological grandparents from her father’s side of the family. Her mother’s parents were there as well. She was so happy they were there. She looked to the right and noticed five men that were national stars in the Christian music world. They were also friends of Michael and were going to be there for the interview later.

Rafael whisked Amy down the isle and Michael took her hand. The Doyle brothers had it all planned. One would pray over them first and sit down while the other led them in the vows.

As the older brother began to pray Amy opened her eyes to see the stage had been decorated in beautiful banners of gold and white. Quickly she closed her eyes and felt a hush go over the room. When she looked up again the other Rev. Doyle had taken his place and led Michael and Amy with the vows of matrimony.

The twins waited patiently and unnaturally quiet as the rings were removed from the pillows they carried. Each boy smiled up at Amy and Michael.

Soon the rings were on their fingers and both reverends pronounced them man and wife. The pictures were flash, flash, flash! An entire five minutes of pictures! As they moved to the private room where the interview would be held, the pictures followed. The family sat down, along with the other Christian musicians.

Soon the interview was taking place. Amy never let go of Michael’s hand. The questions began with why did Amy go to the night club? Michael spoke up first. Before the nightclub incident there was a young lady who had been at the palace posing as one of the staff. She approached my wife and explained that there was to be a party at her father’s home. She said her father was a minister. This is false.

Amy answered the question as well. “I would have to say that this was one of the stupidest mistakes in judgment I’ve ever made. When I found that we were at a nightclub and not a private home I became frightened. Some guy wanted to dance with me and I had to physically disengage myself from him. When I sat down at the table I was handed a glass of something. Next came all the pictures. I ran outside and phoned Michael.”

The questions were intense. “What did you drink that night?”

Amy answered that she didn’t drink anything and they could verify that with the police report. She explained that she had gone to the police station because she wasn’t with anyone she knew.

Questions came about her involvement with her body guard. Several times she was asked his name. “That’s confidential. If he wants you to know it, he’ll tell you.”

The issue of her marrying a much older man had Amy in hysterics. “Just how old do you think I am? I’m nineteen; Michael is only eight years older than I am. That’s a big deal to a child but not an adult. Come on.” She continued to laugh.

The press liked Amy! She was candid, smart and beautiful. No one asked any rude questions about Michael or her sex life. Someone asked Michael about the alleged firing of one of his team after Amy fell. “I did fire him. I yelled real loud too. Then I apologized for being a jerk. He forgave me. This is sort of like how family does it right?” The room was silent.

When five celebrities walked to the place where Michael was sitting the cameras went off again. Everyone had thought they had just come to the wedding. Michael began to speak seriously.

“I want you to know that there are parts of my life where I have been very naïve. I once met a girl and dated her for a few weeks. When she realized that she couldn’t pressure me to go to bed with her she became angry and went to many newspapers with many lies. Here is her picture. Michael pushed a button and her picture came up on a screen behind him. “The girl that portrayed herself to Amy as a minister’s daughter is also the same girl as I’ll show you. Your own pictures helped me today.” Michael pushed another button and the picture of Amy at the nightclub came up with Sandra standing next to her handing her a drink.

One by one each of the other five Christian celebrities had similar stories. This same women had tried to extort money from one of them. She took stories about them to the press that were not true. She even tried to tell them one of the men had fathered her child. They had been scrutinized and hounded because of these acts.

Michael then spoke, “I understand that in this past few years’ people who had sung, or preached on behalf of Christ have been found in sexual sin. We are not trying to make evil good. Sexual sin is well defined in the word of God.”

One of the other well known musicians spoke up. “As you know, I was caught having an affair. I want to tell you that sexual sin is a form of bondage. It was a time in my life when Christ exposed me and knocked me to my knees. I had become proud and felt important as the spotlight was on me. When I came to my senses and realized that I had stopped living the life I was singing about, I asked Christ for forgiveness. Our mission is to point the finger to Jesus Christ. We should not be worshipped as idols. We are human beings who have the ability to choose right and wrong. It’s all about Christ”

Another man stood up and spoke. “We aren’t trying to justify the evil found in the Christian community. In this case however, we wanted to expose this woman before she went after others with false accusations.”

Each newsman was holding their cell phones up to capture the voices and pictures of these six men who had been hounded by one lady. The interview ended quietly and many people said their congratulations to the newlyweds.

The entire vestibule of the theatre was filled with long tables and food of every thing imaginable. The reception lasted until after midnight. A tired Amy and Michael left the group in a white limousine. They went to the airport and caught a flight to Colorado.

Amy was excited when she found their room was actually an entire house. Outside it was freezing cold but the cabin was warm and cozy. “This is my home Amy. I only live here a few months out of the year. Do you like it?” Amy nodded yes. She moved about the cabin as if in a trance. She was amazed to see such beautiful pine cabinets. The kitchen was stocked with all sorts of food. The upstairs loft bed was inviting with a goose down quilt. There was a solar room just off the loft. You could sit and watch the sun set while drinking coffee. The smell of cedar and pine filled the air.

Amy wandered all over the cabin and didn’t notice that Michael showered and put on his relaxing night wear. The cabin was dimly lit but Amy could see it was decorated with Michael’s awards. Pictures of the family were on the mantle. A hidden cabinet revealed a huge television. The cabin had surround sound and Amy put some music in the cd player. “On Bended Knee” began to play.

Amy was staring out of the windows at the Colorado Mountains when she felt Michael’s arms encircle her waist. “Are you going to stay in your travel clothes forever?” Amy felt secure and alive. There was no hesitation or fear.

Amy turned to see Michael had shaven. He had a wonderful woodsy smell. He wore only the pajama bottoms. Amy reached out and touched his smooth chest. The muscles in his abdomen moved as her hands traveled up to his shoulders. She touched his bare back and realized that Michael was indeed beautiful. Michael’s face was in Amy’s neck inhaling the sweet smell of her shampoo.

Brown liquid eyes looked into glittering emerald green. The flickering of the fire made moving pictures on the darkening walls that glowed in brown and orange. The many high windows exposed bright stars against a deep blue night sky. Michael’s hands lifted Amy’s thick auburn tresses.

Michael carried Amy upstairs to the loft where he undressed her himself. It was a gift he’d waited to unwrap at the right time.

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