Niki struggled to keep up her cheerful front as she climbed into the car. Her friends had tried so hard to boost her spirits; she didn't want to disappoint them. It had been a long night and Niki was mentally and emotionally exhausted. If only she could have seen the angel at her side fighting on her behalf, Niki might have drawn some hope. It was not to be, however, and it was a discouraged Romuel that floated heavenward to consult the Lord once again about his charge.
"If you'd only pray like you used to," Romuel muttered to himself as he shook his head at how much things had changed. As a young mother, Niki Bowers had been dedicated to the Lord and to her family. She had worked hard to keep Christ at the center of her life, despite her husband's busy schedule and the temptations that might accompany a doctor's salary. It was true they had lived well, but Niki had drawn the line at extravagance. Living in a small town, it was not so hard to keep things quiet and simple.
Romuel had found his task as guardian angel relatively easy and had even confided as much to Gamaliel and Shamus on different occasions. Unfortunately, with the move to California, things had gradually begun to change for Niki and Jonathan Bowers. It was a forlorn angel that approached Jesus' throne.
"Romuel, what is this I see?" Jesus asked kindly as the angel knelt before his Lord. Romuel's shoulders slumped and he did not lift his eyes from the golden path on which he knelt.
"Oh Lord, what am I to do?" The angel cried out in despair. "I have done everything I know how and yet I feel Niki slipping further and further away. Her joy is gone and she has lost sight of what really matters."
"Romuel, do you think I don't know this?" Jesus spoke patiently to the celestial being before Him. "My heart yearns to have my child back in fellowship with me. But you are forgetting one thing my friend, Niki has a will of her own. You must not blame yourself for her failures."
Romuel closed his eyes, his head still bowed. "I know Lord, but somehow I can't help but feel I'm partly to blame. Maybe I was too confident-maybe I wasn't watching close enough for Satan's advances-maybe...."
"Enough Romuel!" Jesus gently rebuked. "It is true you had it easy for awhile, and yes, Satan is subtle when he works to ensnare the Christian, but you know this well enough. You have had other charges and I am confident in your abilities. Now let's put the issue of blame aside and decide what to do about Niki. Time is short and you must return to your post.
"I am afraid if we allow her to keep on in the direction she is headed, it will only get worse," Jesus continued. "We don't want to lose her. It's time to intervene and bring her home."
Romuel's eyes now lifted to meet the splendor of Jesus' face. "I am to let her die?" The angel asked in a whisper. He knew it was not easy for Jesus to resort to such a measure; it would not be His first choice. Romuel also knew that only the Master could see the future and maybe it would take something this traumatic to shake up Jonathan Bowers and make him take some time for the daughters he was so sadly neglecting, not to mention his relationship with his Lord. The angel nodded his head in assent.
"It should not be a hard task, considering the position in which she has now placed herself." Jesus turned and sadly pointed to a car driving recklessly down a narrow street on the edge of the city. "Return now so you are there to bear her home." As He finished talking Jesus lowered His head, but not before Romuel caught a glimpse of the tear that threatened to spill down his Master's cheek.
"What happened?" The thought alighted briefly on Niki's mind as she tried to piece together the events of the last few seconds. The last thing she could remember was Terri-Lynn's loud singing. Her friend loved to sing along with the songs on the radio. Melanie had finally reached over to change the station. Niki remembered turning to look out her window, too tired to join in the laughter. She knew much of her friends' giddiness was due to their drinking. There was a scream-the screeching of brakes-then all had gone black.
The realization of the crash became clear as the pain suddenly made its unwelcome presence known. Niki struggled in the balance as the pain started to tear unmercifully at her body. Part of her wanted to just sink into oblivion releasing her from the agony, while the other half fought it desperately. "I'm not ready to die!" she cried as a new panic seized her.
As her mind began to clear, Niki tried to move but soon realized she was pinned. In front of her she could see where the car roof was ripped in two and a large piece of metal lay across her chest and lap. It seemed to be crushing the breath right out of her, leaving her gasping for air. Niki' s body was leaning slightly over to one side with the remaining piece of roof pressing down on her head, making it impossible for her to sit upright.
Darkness threatened to encompass her again, but Niki fought it off. She was afraid if she closed her eyes she might never wake up again. She had to keep her mind clear; she had to think. But, oh it hurt! Her head was pounding so. If only this incessant throbbing would stop-if only I could catch my breath-I need to find out if the others are all right. Niki' s thoughts were sporadic as she struggled to gain control.
She tried tipping her head to get a glimpse of Sharon, but it hurt too much. Managing to free her right arm Niki reached over to her friend, blindly searching for a heartbeat. She almost pulled away when she felt the warm fluid trickling down the side of Sharon's face, but she had to know how bad it was. She had to know if Sharon was alive. Moving her hand down to her friend's throat, Niki was relieved to feel a pulse.
Her eyes now shifted to the front. What about Melanie and Terri-Lynn? The whole front part of the car roof was caved in where the piece of metal had come crashing through. Niki wasn't sure what they had hit, but they had hit hard. She noticed that the front seat had been pushed back; she could feel the pressure of it on her legs. A heavy foreboding silence hung over the car. Tears welled up in Niki's eyes as she realized there wasn't much chance that they would have survived. Opening her mouth to call their names, all she could manage was a feeble whisper, for the pain was too great. Niki closed her eyes; a sob escaped her parted lips. "Oh God, please help me!" It was her final plea before the blackness once again enveloped her in its powerful grasp.
From somewhere in the darkness a siren echoed in Niki's mind. It droned on in the distance as if in another world. Vaguely Niki could hear men talking-shouts-hands touching her-pulling her. The pain! Don't they know they are hurting me? "Stop! It hurts!" She tried to tell them, but she wasn't sure if she had actually spoken the words or if they just echoed in her mind. Her thoughts were muddled as the pain caused her to slip back into unconsciousness.
Through the next several hours, Niki was unaware of the desperate battle being fought to save her life. The anesthetic mercifully kept her oblivious to the doctors prodding and the hours of surgery spent trying to repair the damage that was so heavily wrought in that brief instant when their car collided with the bridge support. Nor was Niki aware of the lone angel that stood at her side, holding her hand, waiting to take her on her final journey.
It was in the wee morning hours, in a small room in intensive care, that Niki at last regained consciousness. She struggled to open her eyelids that were so strangely heavy. They remained open only a moment, for they seemed to have a will of their own that Niki didn't have the strength to battle. In that brief second, however, her eyes focused enough to recognize the tear-stained face of her husband as he sat helplessly at her side.
It took Niki a minute to realize where she was and why. She was thankful to be alive and to at least temporarily be relieved of the pain. Her body felt stiff and numb, but not so numb that she couldn't feel Jonathan gently stroking the back of her hand.
"I'm sorry Niki," Jonathan whispered in a broken voice. "I should have been there tonight. This wouldn't have happened if only I'd." Jonathan couldn't finish. He lowered his head to the edge of the bed and sobbed, the tears wrenching his strong frame. "Oh Lord, please let her live!" he begged.
Jonathan suddenly became alert when he felt his wife's hand constrict slightly within his grasp. He gently returned the pressure as he felt Niki' s fingers relax. Looking into his wife's face, Jonathan searched for any other sign of response. A smile touched his face as Niki willed her eyes open once again. Tears streamed down her cheeks, dampening her pillow. Her mouth opened slightly; there was so much she wanted to say. Like how sorry she was for the way she'd been acting-that she forgave him for not being there-she wanted him to know things would be different, but no words came.
Eyes closed, Niki's heart sank with her failure to speak, but as she felt Jonathan brushing away her tears Niki knew he had gotten the message. Romuel stood closely by witnessing the scene. His eyes lifted heavenward as he silently thanked his Lord for allowing them this much.