While trying to help and care for Jason on earth she is struggling to keep up in school, where they this year will learn both to ride Pegasus' and fly through severe storms. Meanwhile Mick is becoming more than a friend to her and soon she finds herself facing the unavoidable choice. But something evil is threatening the students at the Academy and Meghan is no longer safe within the walls of the castle. Something causes several of the students to be caught in the middle of a nightmare, that they can't wake up from. Soon they realize that they might have a traitor in their midst.
Serenity is the second novel in Willow Rose's Afterlife-series and is great for children and teenagers ages 9 and up.
Life has become quite complicated ever since I died, I thought to myself as I spotted Jason from the air. He went into an alley. I followed him while slowly floating over his head. Dim neon lights flickered against the brick walls. I felt a pinch in my heart when I looked into his face. Despite his recent weight loss and the distance in his brown eyes, he could still make my heart stop. I would do anything for those eyes. And I would do anything to make them see me again.
Ever since my former friend (and human), Jason, had lost everything—his home and his mom—he hadn’t been able to see me (a spirit) anymore or even hear me speak to him. The anger inside of him prevented him from that. Meanwhile I felt so guilty, since I had a lot to do with this mess he was in. So all summer long, I had left the spirit world and gone to earth to see him as often as I could, trying to help him keep safe, which was pretty hard since he lived on the streets and did drugs. It was tough seeing him waste away and not be able to do anything about it.
Only a couple of months ago we had shared a kiss. It might sound phony, but for me it had been the kind of love that seems everlasting, the kind might be called destiny or even fate. It was on a whole different level than any love I had ever encountered. But now it was all gone. The Jason I knew was gone. All I had left was his destitute body wandering the streets of New York City.
In the alley, Jason met a guy whose face was covered by a dark hood. They started talking. I kept as close as I could. Standing right behind him, I could almost feel his warmth. I reached out my hand, trying to touch him, but I couldn’t. My heart raced. I missed being able to touch him and I longed to feel him touch me again. Sometimes at night I would lie still in bed and recall the one kiss we had shared.
It felt like a lifetime ago.
The dark alley smelled like urine. The skanky guy seemed to be angry with Jason.
“Listen. If you don’t start paying off your debt soon, there is no telling what will happen to you.”
“Come on,” Jason said. “Just help me out this one time. I really need something. I’m feeling horrible.”
Jason’s hands shook as he reached out, his face distorted in despair and desperation.
The guy wearing the dark blue hood shook his head. “I don’t know what to do with you, man. I’m telling you, the Boss isn’t gonna like this.”
“I will get the money, I promise,” Jason said. “I just need this one fix and I’ll be fine.”
The guy rolled his eyes and reached out his hand. It had something in it—a small bag.
I sighed deeply when I saw Jason take it. It was the third time this week I had followed him into a situation like this. And each time he met with a different pusher. Jason owed money all over town now. And there was no way he would ever be able to pay any of it back. I knew that much. It was only a matter of time before they would start collecting it and he would be in deep trouble.
“Thanks, man,” Jason said. “I owe you one.”
The guy grabbed Jason by the shirt and lifted him up.
“No. You owe me big time,” he said harshly. “Major big time. You get it? You’d better come up with that money one of these days … ”
Jason nodded and the guy let go of him. Jason fell to the ground with a loud groan.
“Now get out of here before I regret it,” the guy yelled.
Jason got on his feet and started running into the street, stumbling a couple of times. I followed him as fast as I could. He ran into another alley and found a hole in an empty building. He crawled through the broken brick wall and entered a small room where I knew he had spent the last couple of nights. It smelled horrible in there. He sat on the floor next to his backpack with all his belongings and unpacked the stuff from the small bag.
He found his equipment in the backpack and poured some brown powder into a spoon, mixing it with some liquid. His hands shook as he heated it and he almost spilled it. Small beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. Then he poured it into a needle, before he injected it in his arm.
Shortly after, his eyes became distant and drowsy. His pupils became small. I sat next to him with my head against the wall. As he dozed off, I tried several times to grab his hand and hold on to it, but I couldn’t. Instead I did what I always did. I talked. Even though the Angel Salathiel, headmaster of my school, had told me that Jason wasn’t able to hear me anymore, I still tried. I talked and talked to him every day when I came to visit, hoping this would be the day he would see me and hear me again.
“So I told you I started school again, right?” I said. “Well so far, the second year at The Academy seems to be a little more fun than the first one I spent there. But I have only been at it for a week now, so I’ll have to wait and see. But we do have some interesting new classes this year that I am really looking forward to. And this is the year that we will get to ride the Pegasuses. We each get our own horse to fly on. I can’t wait to try that.”
As always, Jason didn’t hear anything I said. He was in a world of his own, completely unreachable to anyone. Still I continued as if he could hear me, as if he were the same Jason I had known and loved.
“But apart from that, people are the same. Acacia and Mai are nicer to me though, since Portia … well you know the story. She’s gone now. Abhik is pretty much the same. I haven’t been spending much time with him lately though, since we started school. But we did spend a lot of the summer together. When I wasn’t with you we went surfing the clouds and jumping off the cliffs beneath the castle into the ocean. That is one weird feeling, I can tell you. When you don’t have a physical body and you jump into water it’s hard to explain. It’s just really … weird and awesome. I’ll have to show you when you die one day … ”
I stopped myself, thinking that I actually had come to hope Jason would die soon. I saved his life when his step-dad tried to kill him, but I don’t think I would have done that, had I known he would end up like this. A homeless drug addict. His mother was sent to jail for killing her husband. The worst part was that I had helped her. I changed Jason’s destiny. He wouldn’t be able to remember me even if he did die, but at least he would be out of the bondage he was in now. But as the days passed, I had become afraid that if he did die, he might not be going to the same place where I was. He had become so angry that no Angel or spirit could reach him. I didn’t know how it all worked and how it was decided who went where, but I was determined not to give up on him.
“Oh yeah, and Mick … ” I interrupted my own thoughts. “You remember Mick, don’t you? Well never mind if you don’t. He has just been so nice to me all summer. He makes me all kinds of great food and listens to everything I tell him. He is such a great listener. I am really lucky to have him as a friend.”
As I spoke I noticed Jason’s head had tilted to one side and soon his body followed. He had fallen asleep and was now lying on the floor. I put his dirty blanket over him and sat next to him for another half an hour. I wanted to reach out and touch his face, maybe just stroke his cheek with my hand. But I couldn’t. His anger had given him a burning shield that I couldn’t break through. It broke my heart to see him suffering like this. As always when I had to leave him, I felt the tears running down my cheeks. I hated that moment, because then I wouldn’t be there to protect him if something were to happen to him. But I had to go back. Time went faster on earth than in the Spiritual Realm, so I could never stay long with him.
I whispered goodbye in his ear and blew him a kiss. Then I stopped and stared at him to see if he heard it or even felt something. But he didn’t move. With heavy heart I went outside and soared into the air.
I made it back to the white marble castle just in time for breakfast in Hornam Hall. Jackline, Mai, and Acacia, my roommates, had already finished and were about to leave when I entered, but my best friend, Abhik, was still at the table, waiting for me as he often did.
The big round tables were filled with all kinds of toasted bagels, fruit, bacon and eggs, and even porridge. I sat down next to Abhik. He smiled when he saw me. Nigel sat in front of me with his nose in a big leather book called History of the Angels, Volume 2.
“Are we having history today?” I asked.
Abhik nodded. “First and second—”
I gulped down some orange juice. “I haven’t had time to study. Mrs. Higgins is going to kill me.”
Abhik smiled. I knew what he was thinking. This was the second time this week that I wasn’t prepared for class and we were only into the first week of the semester. I knew I had to get better at this. I just didn’t have the time for it with all my visits to earth to see Jason.
“You do realize that you are already dead, right?” Abhik smiled at his own joke.
“Ha-ha ... yes. Very funny,” I said.
I grabbed the bagel from my plate and put some cream cheese onto it. “So could you fill me in before class?” I asked with my mouth full.
He nodded. “Sure … ” he said and got up. “But we have to leave now. We only have a few minutes.”
I grabbed the rest of my bagel and got up. “I’m ready.”
As he had done before, Abhik filled me in on what I needed to know in order to get by in the class. To my own surprise, I managed to pull it off. I even answered a couple of questions Mrs. Higgins asked.
“Very good, young lady,” she said and gave me one of her rare smiles. I send it directly to Abhik. I thanked him by going for a fly with him during lunch break.
“So how is Jason?” he asked when we had raced each other through the clouds for a while and stopped for a rest.
I sighed deeply.
“That bad, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah … I don’t know what to do about him. He seems to be getting worse. He has gotten himself into a lot of trouble.”
“How is that?”
“He owes a lot of money to some bad drug dealers. I don’t know how he’s going to get out of that. And the drugs … he is taking more all the time and … it’s just really a bad situation right now. The worst part is that I can’t do anything about it.”
“I see what you mean.”
“I can protect him from accidents and other stuff, but I can’t get him out of that mess. He still can’t hear a thing I’m saying and I can’t even touch him. I really miss him, you know?”
Abhik nodded. He stared out in the open air.
“You are tired of me talking about him, aren’t you?” I asked.
He looked at me again. “No, no. I was the one who asked you about him.”
“Then what is it? I can tell that there is something wrong.”
Abhik sighed. “It is just … I just hope you won’t forget to live your life up here. There is a whole world for you here and it seems to me that you are missing out on a lot because you are always down there. Even when you are at the school, your mind and heart is still with him on earth.”
I nodded. It was hard to hear it, but he was absolutely right. I knew he was. We had a fun semester ahead of us, and I wasn’t even excited. All I could ever think about was Jason. All I ever talked about was him.
“I just feel like he needs me right now,” I said. “I know in my heart that if I keep visiting him, one day he will return to me. It will happen one day. I just know it. It’s hard to explain; I just know it.”
Abhik smiled. “Well, if that is the way you feel, then I will be there for you. I will even continue to listen to all your talk about your precious Jason. About his hair, about his eyes, about the kiss you once shared,” he said and got up. He stood in front of me on the fluffy cloud.
“I don’t talk that much about him, do I?”
Abhik looked at me like I was a raving lunatic. “I’ll race you back to the castle,” he said.
That Thursday our history class was followed by a new class. The Art of Healing was taught by Raphael the Archangel. I had really been looking forward to this class because I was certain I would be able to use some of this on Jason. My dream was to be able to heal him from his addiction.
Like the other Angels I had met in this school, Raphael was three times the size of a human. He was dressed all in white and when he appeared through the door his brightness lit up the whole room. I felt small and insignificant in his presence.
He smiled at us all while we just stared back at him. He was stunning. All the Angels were beautiful, but Raphael was way beyond anything I had ever seen. Even his movements were graceful.
“It is my job to teach you about the healing power you possess as a spirit. Last year you learned much about your own bodies: how you can go through doors, walls, and glass, and how you can fly through the air. So now it is time to learn a little about what you can do for others.”
To nobody’s surprise, Nigel’s hand was first into the air.
“Is it true that you bound the demon Azazel under the desert of Egypt and covered him with darkness?”
Raphael smiled and laughed. Then he spoke in his deep reassuring voice.
“Well, yes Nigel. That happened many years ago.”
“But is he still there?”
Raphael nodded. “He will stay there until judgment day comes.”
“Wow,” Nigel said with big eyes.
The rest of the class looked impressed as well. Whether it was the story or Raphael’s beauty that stunned us, I don’t know. But we were spellbound for hours while he spoke.
“The first thing you need to know is that a happy heart is the best medicine. A cheerful mind brings healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones,” he said.
Nigel put his hand up again.
“Will we be able to heal people the way Jesus did?”
Raphael cleared his throat. “Well, you might.”
“What does that mean?”
“Jesus healed people and took their sickness. So can you, in theory. But I have to be honest and tell you, only a few of you will ever get that good.”
Nigel made a disappointed sound.
“What you need to understand, children, is that sickness comes from Satan. He is sickness.”
I turned my head and looked at Abhik. Since he had been sick with cancer all of his life on earth, this had to be hard for him to hear. But he didn’t seem sad. On the contrary he seemed enlightened.
“So what you are saying is that when people on earth get sick, it isn’t God trying to punish them for something?” Abhik said without putting his hand up.
My heart stopped. Was that what Abhik had thought all this time? That God had been punishing him?
Raphael stared at him with compassion in his eyes.
“God would never do that. Why should he do that? You are all his children. We are all his children,” he said.
Abhik’s expression changed. He seemed hurt. Raphael saw it and approached him.
“So now you wonder: ‘Why didn’t he heal me?’ Right?”
Abhik didn’t say anything. He just nodded quietly.
“Well even I don’t have the answer for that,” Raphael said. “Sometimes he gives healing; sometimes he gives the strength to go through it.”
“But I didn’t … ” Abhik said. His voice was a little shaky now. “I didn’t go through it. I died.”
“Yes, you did, and you are here now. And you have eternity ahead of you. Heaven is about to open its gates for you. Once you get there, there is nowhere else you would rather be. And since you went through such a tough life on earth I imagine you will spend eternity trying to help sick people on earth get their healing. Am I right?”
Abhik looked at Raphael with his big wide brown eyes.
“How did you know that?”
“I am an Angel, remember?”
The whole class burst into laughter. Abhik smiled as well. I was happy that he finally got some answers to all the questions I knew he had.
Raphael’s class turned out to be both exciting and fun, but also hard work. This first day we had a lot of theory about human nature and how humans had to believe and pray for healing before we as spirits could be allowed to help them.
“Humans always try to figure everything out, things that are beyond their level of understanding. And in reality, those we can help are the ones who rely on God and trust him to solve their problems. We can’t get through to an unbeliever. It is that simple. ”
I took notes on what Raphael said. When I was done I stared at my notes for a few seconds. So it didn’t matter how much I learned at the school about healing a drug addict. If Jason didn’t ask God to release him from it, and believe that God would do so, then I couldn’t help him.
I raised my hand. “So it’s not that God doesn’t want to heal people when they are not healed. It’s because their lack of trust and faith make it impossible for us to help them. Is that it?” I asked.
Raphael smiled at me. “Not exactly. While it is up to God who gets healed and who he gives the strength to go through it, we all make hundreds of choices every day. You choose what to eat, what to say, what to do. And believing God for healing is a choice humans have to make. And that can be very hard for them. They don’t know what we know. They don’t know that Heaven and the Spiritual Realm are real. So they doubt.”
I vaguely remembered my own doubt. As a child I had no problem believing in God and Heaven and all, but as I grew older I remembered the questions that would come into my head and make me wonder if it all was just something that was made up. Like Santa Claus.
All of a sudden I remembered something else from my childhood. A vision came to me and flashed before my eyes. I was a little girl praying on my knees in my bedroom. What was I praying for? I remembered the feeling of total desperation, of wanting God to help me so badly, to have him heal my dad. Had my dad been seriously ill? In the next second I remembered he had been in the hospital with a burst appendix. The doctors hadn’t known if he was going to make it or not, but he did.
Ever since I had come to The Academy I hadn’t been able to remember my parents. I knew I had them and that I loved them a lot, but I couldn’t recall their faces or even name the city where I grew up. I had been dreaming about them and about them looking for me. Sometimes I even felt like I could hear my mother desperately calling for me. My fear was that they didn’t know I was dead.
Now for the first time I managed to recall a face. My dad’s face. He was lying in a hospital bed smiling at me. It made me so happy inside. So relieved. I longed to see that smile again.
Great Follow Up!
This second book in The afterlife series is a real page turner. Meaghan knows no more than she did in the first book but the characters and the storyline are developing. I've purchased the 3rd book and hope there will be a fourth. Great young adult series that is enjoyable for adults as well. Unique take on the afterlife.