Chapter One

     They called her The Bride.

Wearing a wedding dress and matching veil the color of ivory, she floated through Hell’s Kitchen like a specter.

Once, the dress had been filled with abundant joy. Now it was matted with grime. Large swaths of its tulle and lace hung in shreds.

     For broken people HellÕs Kitchen is a favorite stop on the express train to nowhere. Restaurants offer a square mile of garbage bins brimming with international cuisines ripe for the picking. And for a moment of rest, or a place to bed down for the night, warrens of shadowy alleys on every street. But their stay is never long. Like desert wanderers, when urge or circumstance takes them, they move on.

But The Bride stayed.

She was tiny, with small almost childlike features. But it was the frightful tension in her eyes – the soft, cobalt blue of a summer sky, rubbing against the luminescence of madness - that grabbed on and refused to let go.

And when she slept she dreamed the same dream. Broken synapses and misfiring neurons propelled her up beyond the stars to HeavenÕs Door. But as always it was closed.

When The Bride took up residence in the Kitchen she was regarded as a mystery. A topic of idle conversation. As months passed she became a curiosity, and worth little more than a lingering glance. Three years later she was a tattered scrap of neighborhood wallpaper barely regarded at all.

But she was regarding everyone. Her eyes parting the veil of their disguise, searching for the one who could end her torment.

When they caught her eyes fastening on them men hurried away, and women held their children close.

Except for one.

Who are you? she asked.

An angel. Tell me your heartÕs wish.

And she did.

Come with me and IÕll take you to the One you have been seeking.

The voice was soothing. Reassuring. And it made her feel warm.

But at the touch of the AngelÕs hand she drew back.

It was cold. Reptilian.

Shrill warning voices filled her head.

No! Danger!

She tried to pull away.

But the touch tightened into a grip, and her body grew limp.

She closed her eyes, and the voices grew silent. And in a moment of stunning clarity she saw HeavenÕs Door finally swing open.

Revealing her Beloved.

And tears of gratitude streamed down her cheeks.