It was a quiet evening at the Pruett Estate. The youngest Pruetts were playing together–nicely–while the oldest ones were quietly tucked away in each other’s embrace. Suddenly, there was a loud, screeching from outside. Every second, it got louder and louder. Brady jumped up from Viviana’s arms and yelled, “EVERYBODY IN THE BASEMENT!”
Everyone hurried to the presumed safe place and were just as perplexed as the next person. They huddled together in fear wishing that whatever was going on would be over soon. The house began to rumble, and Emerson and Sasha began to cry as they heard an explosion and the sound of falling metal. The smell of smoke and oil came in from the outside, and Brady was concerned that the house was on fire. He ran upstairs to see what happened and to make sure the basement was the safest place for them. As soon as he opened the door, he was overwhelmed with smoke. He couldn’t see what was causing it, but whatever it was must have happened very close to the house. He closed the door and ran back downstairs to address the family.
“This place is gonna be filled smoke! We can’t stay down here. When you get upstairs, stay as low to the ground as you can because it’s already smokey.”
“Is the house on fire, daddy,” Sasha asked nervously.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t tell, but we need to get as far away from the house just in case. We’ll go across the street to the beach. Everybody ready?”
They all agreed and made their way up the stairs. When they were all collected at the door, Brady reiterated their plan.
“Ok. Stay low, remember? Go out the front door to the beach.”
He opened the door, and a billow of smoke came through and choked them. Brady pulled his shirt over his nose as he held the door for his family to make sure they all got out. They crawled through the house, each wishing for the first time in life that they had a smaller house. When they finally made it to the front porch, they stood there briefly, coughing the smoke out of their lungs as they enjoyed the fresh air.
“Ok, you guys, we need to move,” Brady suggested.
And, with that, they all ran across the street. When they got there, they could see giant billows of smoke rolling from the back yard. When Brady saw it, he knew exactly what had occurred, but he didn’t want to alarm anyone–especially Viviana.
“Stay here. I’m gonna go check it out,” he said.
“Please be careful,” Viviana said.
“I will. Call the fire department.”
He waited until he was out of earshot to call an ambulance. He tried to remain calm and walk, but the thought of what he potentially could see made him uneasy and he began running toward the scene. What he saw was unreal. The family rocket was engulfed in flames and in dozens of pieces.
“JULIAN,” he yelled. “JULIAN!”
He didn’t get a response. He carefully circled the area trying to find some way to get inside the rubble without getting himself killed.
“JULIAN!! Oh Watcher! Please let my son be alive!! JULIAN!!!”
“Dad,” Julian called weakly. “Dad.”
“JULIAN,” Brady yelled as he dashed to where Julian was and tried to get him out. “Thank the Watcher!! Are you ok?! Can you walk?”
“I think so. Just get me out before we both get blown up!”
Julian did his best to pull himself out while Brady tried lifting the heavy metal. It was a struggle with lots of grunting and straining, but they got Julian freed and joined the rest of the family across the street.
Thankfully, his space suit was flame retardant, and he wasn’t burned. Apart from being badly bruised and inhaling a lot of smoke, he walked away from this terrible accident injury free! He still went to the hospital because Viviana insisted that he stay over night for observation. She wanted to make sure he didn’t develop any respiratory issues from the smoke inhalation as well as no internal bleeding from hidden injuries.
Viviana stayed with him at the hospital to oversee the observation. The next morning, when he received the all clear, she took him home and got him situated in his room. The family stayed close by that day and took good care of him. On a whim, Viviana called Jeannette that evening. She thought she should know what happened, but was also hoping that this tragic encounter would be the thing that made Julian see her differently. But, what she didn’t know was that he already did.
Jeannette dropped everything she was doing and rushed right over as soon as she hung up. Viviana told Jeannette about the accident and said that Julian was in the hospital the previous night, but everything was fine and that he was resting at home. Although Jeannette understood that he was fine, she still managed to be overcome by emotions. When she arrived, she let herself in the house and ran up the stairs to see her friend. But, before she entered his room, she took a few deep breaths and gathered herself so she wouldn’t be a mess. She knocked on the door and entered when she heard his voice.
He was in a lot of pain and had been seeing flashes of his life all day. He was grateful to be alive but still emotional when he thought about how he could have died. When he looked up and saw that it was her, his demeanor changed. The corners of his mouth rose, and his eyes narrowed. That warmth he missed had returned, and it was spreading across his entire body.
“Jeannette,” was all he managed to say. He was so happy to see her he could have cried.
There was something about the way he looked at her that sent chills down her spine. It wasn’t because she hadn’t seen him in a month. This was a different look that she had never seen before.
She was so relieved to see that he was ok and sat down on the bed next to him and squeezed him. He winced from the pain, and she apologized for hurting him. Once it finally registered in her brain that he indeed was alive and well, she wanted to punch him.
“What in the world were you doing in space?? You’re not an astronaut!”
“You know I’m a nerd and I want to know everything! I figured that thing has been in our backyard for all these generations…why not? Besides, I’ve done it four times before and it was fine.”
“You’re not going back up there again! You could have been killed, Julian! Thank the Watcher they make those suits flame-retardant! I don’t know what I would have done if…if…”
Just the thought of it was enough to form tears in her eyes.
“But, I’m here! And you’re here…and…that’s all I care about right now,” he said as he wiped her tears and wrapped his arms around her.
“Really,” she asked with surprise in her voice.
“What exactly does that mean,” she asked.
With everything she had been through with him, she needed to ensure that they were on the same page. She didn’t need anymore assumptions, mixed messages, and misunderstandings. She needed the unadulterated truth, and it was past time that she got it.
“Well…I’ve been thinking about a lot of things over the past couple of days…especially yesterday…and, I’ve made a decision. I know what I want. I want–”
“Oh Juuuuliaaaaan,” Rose sang as she walked through the door. “You can’t just leave a girl hanging for two days and not call!”
She startled them both, and they separated themselves.
“What’s this,” she asked.
“Ummm, Rose…this is my best friend, Jeannette.”
“Oh,” she said in a fake nice voice. “That’s funny…he never mentioned you.”
“Yeah, well, I suppose our friend here is a forgetful plumhead because I never heard of you either,” Jeannette retorted.
Jeannette gave her the once over and thought that she was very pretty. She thought Rose was exactly the type of girl Julian would go for. She felt silly for believing that she might finally have his heart. When she left him that night, she was giving him space to figure out what he was going to do about her, not trying to do some other girl. She felt betrayed.
“So, Julian,” Rose said daringly. “What’s going on? You have the woman you’re dating and the woman you say is your best friend in the same room, yet neither of us knows about each other. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Wha–come on, you guys! This is silly. I had an accident and I was in the hospital and she came by! What’s wrong with that?”
“Wait…you were in the hospital and didn’t think to call me? And you call her instead,” Rose asked.
“She’s my best friend!! Besides, my mother called her.”
“Oh…so you weren’t going to call me,” Jeannette asked with the same attitude Rose had.
“I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL!! I wasn’t going to call anyone! Why am I on trial here??”
“Because you’re guilty, Julian,” Rose said. “You’re hiding us from each other. There has to be a reason.”
“I know the reason,” Jeannette said. “Like I said the last time we saw each other…call me when you figure it out.”
“Don’t go, Jeannette. Please! I want you to stay.”
“Oh sure,” Rose said sarcastically. “So what are the three of us supposed to do. Sit around and play cards and not talk about the fact that you’re hiding something?”
“We weren’t finished talking, Jeannette,” Julian as she was walking out the door. “I had something important to say!”
“No…I don’t think you did,” Jeannette said despondently and disappeared in the hallway.
“So, you were in the hospital? No wonder you didn’t call,” Jeannette heard Rose say. “Poor thing. Here…let me rub your shoulders.”
Naturally, she was already in the stairwell when Julian rejected Rose’s gesture. Isn’t that how things go? Jeannette was embarrassed. This situation exasperated her. She still loved him, but she was growing weary. How long can she keep waiting?