"They didn't have the muffin you wanted, or the salad, so I got these for you--I hope you like them," said Moreno.
"What?! Why didn't you call me to ask?!"
"They had a fairly limited selection, so I just picked the closest things."
"These aren't close at all!" protested Bridezilla.
"They did have the coffee you wanted."
"These aren't close at all!" Bridezilla said again.
"I'm taking my lunch break now," said Moreno, and Bridezilla stared at her in shock. (Who does she think she is?!)
Several miles to the east, Angela de la Paz went outside to test the snowshoes The Warrior had fashioned for her in the old way, just like the first pair he had made 400 years ago. Arborist Devi Rajatala watched anxiously from the window of her National Arboretum field office (where she and Angela had spent the night), but she had given up wondering who exactly Angela thought she was. Angela had assured her she would be fine, and the baby would be fine. Angela was no longer the fragile little thing who had first come on a school bus to the Friendship Garden not so many years ago.
"Tell me about the thunder snow," said Angela.
"Rare, like the white buffalo," said The Warrior, tramping effortlessly towards the trees. "It is a sign from the Creator that Nature's balance is shifting. The Thunderbird is challenging the North Wind, and so lightning and snow begin a fierce battle. It is always brief. When it is over, everything has changed, but few can see what has changed."
"Can you see what has changed?"
"Yes," replied The Warrior, with no further explanation.
"I haven't decided about the baby yet," said Angela.
"I think you have," The Warrior retorted, but gently.
"I want to see a sign," she said.
The Warrior believed that if she were contemplating giving up the baby for adoption, it must be so--if she were meant to keep it, she would know. But he also knew she was a troubled soul who had been asked to give much to the world, and had received but little. "Look there," he said, stopping to point out a bird's nest that had miraculously survived since last spring in a small tree hollow. "The mother may very well move back in this year--she built it so well. And it will be softer this year from the snow, but still strong enough to hold her eggs." Angela contemplated the nest for a moment, and then a pink warbler appeared and settled into the nest. She turned to see if The Warrior saw it also, and he nodded, but he knew she had seen pink warblers many times, and which choice would it be a sign of, anyway?
"I know the Cigemeiers would be good parents," she said. "But it's altering the baby's life forever. It's scary to decide that."
"A million things will alter that baby's life."
"But this one is my choice. How can I be sure it's the right choice?"
"You can't," said The Warrior. "It's like the thunder snow--everything changes, and yet we will never know how things would have continued without it."
"You said that you can see the difference," Angela reminded him.
"I can see what has changed, but not what might have been without the change."
Angela struggled to understand this, and then the pink warbler started singing to her. The two watched and listened, mesmerized, for several minutes. From the field office, Dr. Rajatala looked out to see where they were, and she could see them in the distance, inexplicably staring at a barren winter tree. Then she prayed for Angela. Then they all saw the quick flash of lightning, to the south, followed several seconds later by a deep clap of thunder. Dr. Rajatala watched as Angela took The Warrior's hand, and the two turned around.
Several miles to the north, Golden Fawn also heard the thunder clap and rushed out to her balcony, knowing everything had changed. A raven was already waiting for her, perched effortlessly on the snowy railing, and she held out to him the piece of bread that she had not put down when jumping up from her lunch. The raven hopped onto her shoulder, whispered in Golden Fawn's ear, then hopped down to her wrist to start pecking at the bread.
"Honey?" called Marcos Vazquez from the doorway. "You don't have shoes on."
"She's OK," said little Joey Bent Oak, also walking out in his stocking feet, and she reached out to him with her birdless hand, and smiled. She looked over Joey's head to her husband and mouthed the words, we're keeping him.
Back at Prince and Prowling, Bridezilla also heard the thunder clap, and took it as a bad sign. She picked up her large LL Bean tote bag and marched off for a third time to look for Laura Moreno. "Where have you been?"
"I was at lunch," said the Staff Attorney.
"But I couldn't find you," said Bridezilla, looking around in vain for a guest chair.
"I went out," lied Moreno, who had been hiding out in the deep recesses of the firm's law library--a place she knew Bridezilla had never graced with her own presence. "I only took an hour."
Bridezilla rolled her eyes. "You're a Staff Attorney now! We need to know where you are at all times! I'll have to find you an old Blackberry or something. I don't know how we will pay for it, with the budget being what it is. They already removed the snack vending machine to pay for your two vacation days a year!"
"That doesn't even make sense--the vending machine shouldn't cost the firm anything."
"I don't know why becoming a Staff Attorney has made you think you're entitled now to be so argumentative all the time!"
"It's just a discussion--it's not an argument," said Moreno, who would have really liked to say instead, you're the argumentative one!
"Whatever!" exclaimed Bridezilla. "I'm not going to let you ruin my happy mood!" (Bridezilla was anything but happy.) "The client just called to cancel the meeting. (Now it was Moreno's turn to roll her eyes.) "We're going to use the time to have a Skype meeting with my wedding planner. She needs to give you the options for floral arrangements, souvenir candles, birdseed bags, limo rentals, and first-dance songs."
"Me?" asked the attorney who had just single-handedly salvaged the Bank of America case.
"Well, I don't have time for this, and my maid of honor just had a baby." (After so many canceled weddings, the only woman Bridezilla had found willing to stand up with her was a second cousin from Marietta.)
"You really don't want to choose these things yourself?"
"Of course I do!" retorted Bridezilla, increasingly annoyed. "I need you to narrow down the wedding planner's options to three of each category, and put it all in a PowerPoint presentation. But first set up the TV in the conference room for the Skype call. It's at 3."
"I already took an hour for my lunch," said Moreno.
"Bill it to 123456," said Moreno. "Duh!"
Moreno looked up the number on the billing codes list and found "Partner Bonus".
Out in the river, Ardua of the Potomac had also been awakened by the thunder snow--something she had not heard in many years. She yawned and peeped out at the snowfall and the now-clearing skies. The air and water smelled different. She swished her tail and glided towards the Jefferson Memorial to work on pulling it further down in the muck because she was still drowsy and had not yet thought of anything else to do. Then she remembered there was a good chance at World War III in Europe, and turned her sights to the State Department.
COMING UP: The haunting of Mia.