9.44 The Voice Within

The twins’ young adult birthday finally arrived, and they wanted a party with just their friends from school. Julian and Jeannette were disappointed about not inviting the family, but—after all—it wasn’t their birthday anyway.

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There were other friends of Juliette and Janessa—mostly boys, naturally—but Jonathan decided that he would invite his own friends so he would have someone to hang out with.

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Skyla had seen people walking into the house ahead of her, and she followed suit. This was the first time she had ever been inside the Pruett Estate. She stepped into the sitting room and wandered into the hallway. “Hello?”

No one heard her because of the music and loud talking, but Jonathan just happened to be coming around the corner and saw her standing there looking uncomfortable. “Hey,” he shouted. “You made it!”

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He threw his arms around her and squeezed her lovingly. “I’m so glad you came.”

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“I feel terribly underdressed,” she said. “I wish you would have warned me.”

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“You look fine,” he said.

“No, I don’t! I look like…like a bum compared to all of you!”

“You’re so beautiful, Sky, no one is looking at your outfit. Trust me.”

Skyla didn’t know how to respond to such an unexpected compliment and grinned widely.

“Come on,” he said. “Let me show you around.”

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Jonathan started the tour in the kitchen, and when Skyla crossed the threshold, she was blown away. It had always been her dream to live in a large house with the top of the line appliances and furniture, but the Pruett Estate was beyond anything she could have ever imagined. She felt like she should have been excited to be standing in a place that she previously only dreamed of walking past, but, instead, she felt even more uncomfortable.

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However, her host was gracious and stayed close by her all night.

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While Jonathan was showing Skyla around, Julian was congratulating his daughters.

“Happy birthday, Juliette!”

“Gosh…it seems like only yesterday you yelled at me for the first time,” he reminisced jokingly. “Now look at you…a beautiful young lady! Your mom and me were talking about you way before we even started dating. We were expecting you, but we got two little princesses! We’re so proud of you both.”

Juliette occasionally took Janessa’s feedback about not saying everything that came to mind, and that was one of those times. In order not to spoil the moment, she simply hugged her father and said, “thank you.”

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“Good evening, Mrs. Pruett,” Tony said. “Congratulations to you on, this, the day of your beautiful daughters’ birth. Who is this beautiful woman sitting next to you?”

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“Oh, this is my—“

I am Callie Pruett-Mumbach, the oldest aunt of your friend Jonathan. Who might you be?”

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“I am Tony Corleonesi, but my friends call me meatball.”

“Well, it’s always a pleasure to meet my nephew’s friends,” Callie said.

“Hey, meatball,” Jonathan beckoned.

“Excuse me, ladies.” Tony got up and went to see what Jonathan wanted.

“Dude, why are you being all weird with my mom and my aunt?”

“For a couple of old ladies…they’re hot!”

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“Ewww. That’s just…ewww!”

“Hey, now you know how I feel while you’re drooling over my mom.”

“Touche.”

“So, string bean, or should I say stranger…what’s up? I’d thought we’d never see you again. She must really be something!”

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“You have no idea! She’s here. You have to meet her!”

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“I saw her,” Tony said. “She’s pretty hot if I may say so.”

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Soon enough, Janessa decided it was time to get the show on the road. Despite being the second twin, she went for the candles first. She thought about what to wish for long and hard before she filled her lungs with air to annihilate the candles.

"I wish…for lots of love and happiness in my life!”
“I wish…for lots of love and happiness in my life!”

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Janessa sat down and replaced the candles for her sister who didn’t seem to care that she was now slightly younger.

“I don’t care about making wishes. I just wanna taste that frosting!” She swiped a chunk of frosting on her finger. “Mmmmmm! Divine! Only my grandma can make a cake like this!”

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“What’s everyone staring at,” she asked. “Start singing!”

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As fate would have it, Janessa gained her father’s romantic side, and Juliette became gloomy. Although she didn’t look sad on the outside, Janessa could tell and it made her upset. She immediately went to work on spreading happiness with her twin.

“Gloomy?? Noooooooooo!”
“Gloomy?? Noooooooooo!”

Viviana quietly slipped away to go to bed. She was terribly happy to still be around to see her oldest granddaughters begin their journeys into adulthood. It was a bittersweet memory as she remembered delivering them the day after she lost her husband. She smiled to herself as she thought about all she had witnessed and been part of in her very long, full life. While there was nothing left that she hadn’t done, she felt that if death still tarried, she would be happy. But, when was death coming for her? She laughed at the thought of living forever.

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After everyone had cake, Jonathan noticed that he had lost track of Skyla. He looked all over the house for her but couldn’t find her. He hoped she hadn’t gone home and ran out the front door just in case. And there she was trying to make an escape.

“Skyla! Wait up!”

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She trotted to the end of the driveway and stopped.

“Leaving so soon? You didn’t have cake. Is everything ok? Did I do something wrong? I’m sorry I didn’t stand next to you while we were singing. I mean, there were so many people, and I know you don’t know them all and…”

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He was yammering on and she simply smiled at his unwarranted attempted smooth recovery. “You haven’t done anything wrong, Jonathan. I just wanted to get out of the way. You know…let you guys enjoy the family moment.”

“But…I want you to stay, Sky. You weren’t in the way…everyone loves you!” Namely me.

Again, this made her happy, and she was smiley all over again. “I appreciate you saying that. I should really go though. I don’t like leaving my dad alone for long.”

“Ok,” he said in slight disappointment. “Will you be ok going home by yourself?” He thought if he asked the question a different way he might get different results.

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “I really appreciate your concern, Jonathan. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone care so much outside of my parents. Sometimes…it’s too much.” Tears had welled up in her eyes, and a couple of them escaped.

“Are you crying? Please don’t do that.” He grabbed her and pulled her into a comforting hug.

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They were tears of mixed emotions. She was happy to have a friend like Jonathan, but she was also still fearful of losing him. She thought she knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t care about where and how she lived and what she didn’t have. However, a small, annoying voice in the back of her mind kept telling her that she wasn’t good enough for him and he would never accept her. That voice told her that she was trash, and if she was lucky enough, she could get a job cleaning the Pruett Estate. Skyla tried silencing that voice with all her might, but some days it was really loud.

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