A couple of months later Celia rolled over in her bed holding her stomach crying. How could she have been so stupid? All she wanted was a night of fun instead she had a drunken one night stand. Now she was pregnant. She had been in this spot before except this time she was alone. John had refused to accept responsibility accusing her not knowing who the father was. She knew. She didn’t make it a habit to sleep with every man she went out with. She wouldn’t have slept with John either if she had been sober. What was she going to do? She couldn’t go to Ian, could she? He had moved on, hadn’t he? She didn’t know who that pink haired girl was but she hoped she was smarter than she was. She should never have let Ian go. She should have taken his hand when he held it out to her. How could she have been so stupid?
There was no way she could afford to go back next semester not if she was going to support herself and the baby. She didn’t have much to show for her year of college. No hope of finishing her degree. Moaning loudly she dragged herself out of bed to face the mess she had made of her life. Promising herself she wouldn’t make things worse than they already were.
After her shower she looked at the help wanted ads in the local paper that was delivered free to her doorstep. Staring at the paper feeling inadequate for most and too proud for the others. Tossing the paper aside she reviewed her finances. Depression set in when she realize the money she had saved and stashed away in a savings account while she lived with Ian was all but depleted. What had she been living on? Credit cards was the answer, all of which were maxed out and past due. Adding her student loans to the mass of debt she accumulated she buried her head in her hands. It was all just too much.
Unable or unwilling to face up to mistakes she went and curled up on her bed. Staring blankly up at the ceiling. The silence of the room was disturbed by the sound her phone made when she received a text. Glancing at it she closed her eyes pulling the blankets over her head. She couldn’t deal with anything else; especially not her landlord demanding rent money that was now two weeks late.
Waking a few hours later knowing she couldn’t continue to ignore her problems. She quickly packed up her few belongings and made a phone call. While she waited for him to arrive she drummed her fingers on the table trying to convince herself she was doing the right thing.
Gene stared in astonishment at the doctor as the words slowly sank in “your sure?” he asked for what felt like the thousandth time.
“Positive Mr Bennett,” the doctor chuckled at him enjoying this moment.
“It’s not funny,” Aimee glared at both of them “how could this happen?” As the two men burst into laughter she couldn’t keep the smile tugging on her lips from spreading. “Ok I know how but it’s been years. We weren’t trying and I’m too old….”
“You know what they say good things come to those who wait,” the doctor waxed philosophical. Turning serious “we’ll need to set up a few tests and monitor you closely due to your age for any complications. I don’t foresee any problems. You’re a healthy middle-aged woman who should have a healthy pregnancy and baby.”
“The first two pregnancies weren’t easy,” Aimee complained “I had severe morning sickness with both my boys.”
Rubbing his chin the doctor asked “have you been feeling unwell with this one?”
Thinking back she shook her head “not really just tired.”
“That’s good,” Gene smiled encouragingly at her “maybe this one will be a girl.”
“We already have two girls,” Aimee said refusing to mollified.
“Come on honey I’m just trying to see the bright side in all of this.” Gene said putting an arm around her as they left the doctor’s office. “It’s not like we can’t afford it. Plus she’ll have Katrina to keep her company.”
“You sound pretty convinced it’ll be a girl,” she leaned her head on his broad shoulder “it could be a boy…”
“So it could be and we’ll love him just the same,” Gene said feeling confidant “this time we’ll both be home to share the responsibility.”
“Hmm that will be nice,” Aimee agreed. “Matt will be joining his dance troupe in a few months and moving to Hidden Springs so he’ll be close to Drew and able to practice more. So we’ll have the room.” Sighing she thought she should be happy but a wave sadness overwhelmed her as she thought about her mother and how she wouldn’t have the opportunity to know her new grandchild.
“What’s the matter sweetheart?” Gene turning her to look at him. Aimee shook her head looking down. “Thinking about your mom?” Nodding she snuggled into his arms. Gene held her a moment giving her what comfort he could. He tried to ignore the vibrations from his phone in his pocket but it could be important….
Stretching Ian yawned trying to wake up. He only had a few hours of sleep snatched between calls. The lack of sleep was the hardest thing to get use to when he became a fireman and being on call 24/7. It had been a busy night a small brush fire on the outskirts of Starlight Shores had been put out before it reached a residential area. Then a family lost their home due to faulty wiring. Fortunately the family all made it out safely and all that was lost was material things that could be replaced.
Rubbing his eyes he made his way to the kitchen. “Morning sleepy head” Beth greeted him cheerily.
“How can you be so chipper so early in the morning?” he asked pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“I’m a morning person,” she smiled giving him a view of her perfect white teeth “it’s the best time of day.”
Breathing in the aroma of the strong black coffee Ian grumbled “just let me have a my coffee…”
“As poor Ian always so grumpy,” Beth teased turning towards the stove where she was cooking pancakes. “Want something to eat? I have plenty of pancakes.”
Lifting his head he shrugged “sure I’ll take a gamble that you cooking won’t kill me.”
Dropping a plate in front of him she said “I’ll have you know I’m a darn good cook.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Ian said taking a bite “mmm they taste pretty good.” He stuffed another bite in his mouth as the fire alarm went off. Getting to his feet fast knocking his chair over in his haste. Ian ran to gather his gear. Hopping onto the engine as it began to leave the station. Grinning at Beth he said “it’s going to be a busy day.”
“I think you may be right,” she said leaning over to help him with his gear.
“Thanks” he mumbled as his phone chimed letting him know he had a missed a call.
“Matt,” a girl called a from across the hall.
Stopping Matt turned and waited for her to catch up. “How’s it going Kimber?”
“Rolling her eyes “I’m at school. Locked in dreary old class rooms. How do you think I’m doing?” Kimber replied shaking her long blond hair from her face.
Matt couldn’t help but laugh as he took her books and walked her to her class. He met Kimber at the prom. He had gone stag and she had just broken up with boyfriend the night before. She had gone to the prom because she had the dress and hadn’t wanted it to go to waste. She had been standing alone watching the couples dancing when Matt approached her. He had taken in interest in her since she didn’t seem to be like the other girls who had come alone. She was much more confident and self-assured as she surveyed the dance floor. Matt had asked her to dance and the rest was history.
Taking her book from Matt’s hands she lightly kissed his cheek before entering the class room. Matt stared after he in a mixture of relief and regret. Relief knowing that they had known each other for only a couple of weeks and their upcoming graduation and separation wasn’t going to be earth shattering. Regret because he would really like a chance to get to know her better. A long distant relationship wasn’t what he wanted though. He wasn’t sure he wanted a relationship at all. He wanted to concentrate on his dance career for a while. Enjoy being single. He wanted enjoy life without excess responsibilities. All he had to do was look at his brother to know he wasn’t ready to raise a kid. Walking into the class room he sat in the back trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. He hated this teacher. Mr Holt always called on him and took every opportunity to bring up what happened between him and Malcolm. Evidently Mr Holt was an admirer of Malcolm senior and took his ill will out on him. Matt kept telling himself he only had another week to go before graduation then he could leave Starlight Shores for good.
While Mr Holt droned on Matt took the opportunity to check his text messages. Frowning as he recognized a name and number wondering what she wanted…..
“Daddy,” Jasmine’s voice came through loud, clear and happy. Gene held the phone away from his ear grinning. He knew what was coming next. He had expected it for a while but he wasn’t about to spoil her fun in telling him. “Daddy are you there?”
“Yes baby I’m here,” he said calmly.
“You’ll never guess and I’m so happy,” she gushed happily breaking noise barriers as she shrieked in his ear. “There’s so much to do. To plan. I don’t know what to do or where to start. Daddy I need you” her voice turned whiny and expectant.
“Honey calm down and tell me what’s happened,” Gene requested in the gap of word she seemed to have surplus of.
“Daddy William asked me to marry him,” she all but screamed into the phone causing Gene to jerk his head away to save his ear drums. “Can you believe it? I’m going to be Mrs William Moody.”
Gene smiled a his daughter enthused about the wedding, the proposal and how much she loved her new fiance. They had met in college and have been inseparable ever since. Gene’s opinion of William was that he was a good, dependable, steady young man who loved his daughter. It didn’t matter if Gene personally thought William was boring. If he made his little girl happy that was all that mattered. Breaking into the steady flow words, Gene suggested “honey why don’t you and William come over this weekend? We can discuss wedding plans, a reasonable budget all those mundane things that need to be considered when planning a wedding. Your mother would love to go dress shopping with you while William and I discuss how he’s going to treat my little girl.”
“Oh daddy,” Jasmine gasped loud enough for Aimee to take the phone from Gene’s hand.
“Jazzy don’t mind your father,” she soothed “you know how much he likes William. He’s just teasing. You know he wouldn’t do anything to break the two of you up. There’s nothing for William to fear. I promise your dad will be on his best behavior.”
“Thank you,” Jasmine sighed in relief. “Will and I will be home around 10 on Saturday morning. Tell dad I love him.”
“I will sweetheart,” Aimee smiled handing the phone back to Gene “she says she loves you.”
“I know she does,” Gene acknowledged escorting Aimee to the car. “I can’t believe Jazzy’s getting married,” Gene muttered shaking his head. It had been an unbelievable day filled with surprises from finding out about the baby to Jasmine’s announcement. What else could the day bring?
Putting his phone away Matt tried to concentrate on the monotone voice of the teacher as the lecture droned on. His mind kept wandering to the text he received. What did she want? As the bell rang he gathered his things and raced for the door. He wasn’t quick enough to avoid the disdainful look the teacher gave him as he passed. Even in the private school he couldn’t get away from people who hated him for what happened to Malcolm. There were still those who believed that Malcolm got a raw deal and shouldn’t have gone to prison for his crimes. This teacher was just an example and an old college buddy of Malcolm senior’s. Malcolm was coming up for parole in a month or so after serving four years of his sentence. Another reason to leave Starlight Shores for good Matt thought. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Malcolm when he got out.
Turning his mind back to the text he received. It was like a dark cloud hanging over his head. Meeting up with Kimber for lunch she took one look at him demanding “what’s wrong?”
Shaking his head he mumbled “nothing.”
Frowning Kimber insisted “don’t hand me that. I know something’s bothering you. Just tell me and together we can find a solution.” Sighing he handed her his phone. “Who is this girl?”
“My brother’s ex-girlfriend” Matt told her.
Staring at him for a moment she handed the phone back. “What are you going to do?”
Rolling his eyes as he took his phone from her “I don’t know. She sounds desperate. What if she really needs help? I can’t just ignore it.” Glancing over at Kimber he asked “what do you think I should do?”
“It’s not up to me,” she patted his shoulder “I don’t know her or what she’s done. Tell me. Then we’ll see if we can figure something out.”
“It’ll take longer than our lunch period to explain. I don’t think there is a solution to a problem like her.”
Taking his hand Kimber squeezed it tight,” then we’ll go somewhere we can talk in private for as long as we need.”
Getting up she said “come on let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” he asked following her not caring if he got in trouble for cutting class.
“You’ll see,” she said over her shoulder.
As they sped towards the burning building Ian glanced at his phone. Reading the text he received “burning building storage closet….” It sent a shiver of apprehension through him. Who would have sent him a message like that? He didn’t recognize the number. What it a joke? He couldn’t think of anyone who would think that was funny…
“Ian are you alright?” Beth asked her voice breaking into his thoughts.
Pulling his eyes away from his phone he nodded “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” she persisted.
“Of course I’m sure,” Ian said determined not to let this get to him. He had a job to do. He didn’t have time to worry about lame jokes. Turning his phone off he put it into a compartment so that it would be out-of-the-way.
Arriving at the scene the fire chief was directing where everyone was to go. Explaining that the empty warehouse was fully engulfed and their main concern was to keep the fire contained and not spread to the other buildings nearby. Looking around the area something caught at Ian’s attention. Flyer’s were floating near by advertising an underground rave called “Burning Building”. They had some gimmick that simulated being inside a fire. Running back to the fire engine he grabbed his phone and double checked his message. He realized someone he knew may be inside that building. Approaching the chief Ian said “I think we may have civilians trapped inside.”
The chief stared at him a moment before asking “what make you think that?”
Ian explained the message he received and the flyer’s he found. “I didn’t recognize the number so I thought it was a joke. But if I had read it complete I would have known it came from my brother. Matty’s inside that building…”
Scanning the text the chief nodded “I think you may be right.” Quickly scanning the area and reorganizing his men he sent three search teams into the inferno. Nodding towards Ian he added him to one of the search teams.
Going into the searing flames Ian could feel the heat despite the protective gear he was wearing. The smoke was thick and he could barely see his hand in front of his face. How was he going to find his brother in all of this? Pushing the panic down inside him he concentrated on clearing each room as they went. Those kids could be anywhere. He refused to believe that they could already be dead. It was possible the fire had already gotten to them or they had run out of oxygen. Shaking his head he tried to rid himself of those thoughts.
As the flames increased the fire became intensely hot Ian knew their chances of finding them alive was next to improbable. He started to dread telling his parents, of living with the guilt of not being able to save his brother. He ignored the recall signal the chief issued. Someone tugged on his shoulder as Beth tried to get his attention. To get him to turn back. He knew he had to keep going. He turned to look at her as they turned back following orders. Ian watched them a moment before turning and running through the wall of flames. He came to a small closet its door slightly ajar and that’s where he found them. Two boys and a girl. Heart beating fast as he examined them. Breathing shallow. Good they were alive.
He radioed out that he found them hoping his team hadn’t cleared the building yet. As luck would have it they had followed him in. They grabbed a kid and hastened from the building as the ceiling began to buckle above them.
Sitting at the tiny table Celia bent her head down and cried. He’s not coming she thought. He of all people she had been sure would come. If for no other reason then to make sure she left town for good. What was she going to do now? Without the money he was supposed to bring she had no way of starting over. Reaching for the news paper again she scanned the help want ads again circling the ones she had rejected as being beneath her. She left the house determined not to come back until she had a job. Her days of playing in the sun were over. So were the days of burying her head in the sand too. She had to face up to the ugly truth. She was the screw up and she had no one to blame but herself. She got herself into this mess and she was the only who could get herself out of it.
In the back of her mind she wondered what had happened to him. Why didn’t he come? As she walked to the first potential job she heard the fire alarms go off and watched a the fire truck sped past. A part of her spared a thought for the people in the fire hoping no one was hurt