Line of Fire, An Autumn Rain Novel
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Copyright ©2003 Rachel Ann Nunes.
All rights reserved. No part of this text may
be reproduced, in any form or by any means,
without permission in writing from the author
From the Diary of Meghan Marshall Burke
Sometimes you don't know when you will be called upon to endure something you thought would
be impossible to endure, and then there is a surprise: you can endure. Not only endure but excel
and be happy. The Lord truly is our strength and our salvation. I believe that now as I never did
before. I didn't know enough sorrow in the beginning to experience true and lasting joy. All that
has changed now.
I must share my story. Writing it has helped me heal, and I believe it will help you as well.
The story begins with Kristin, my sister. But I'll let you read itor at least some of itthrough
her eyes . . .
You think it's never going to happen to you. I know because that's how
I wasuntouchable. Bad things only happen to someone else, usually to
someone you don't know very well. Take a really sick child in your neighborhood.
Their family has to deal with problems every day, but you just catch a glimpse
of the wheelchair at church, or see the parents' reddened eyes as you meet
them in the grocery store. The only thing you're required to do is to ask
how they're doing, not really looking at them, but staring in the direction
of their right ear so you won't make them feel worse.
If anything remotely bad ever did happen to you or your family, it
was always something the doctor could fix with fiberglass or a pill. My little
sister broke her arm twice and both times chose a fluorescent pink fiberglass
cast. Besides my mom's occasional bout of sinusitis, that's about the worst
thing that ever happened to my family.
At least until the year I turned thirteen.
I had my whole life before me then. I dreamed of going to college and
becoming a heart surgeon. Of marrying and having a half-dozen children. I
wanted a nice house with a swimming pool and someone to do the cooking. (Hey,
I could afford that if I became a heart surgeon.)
All those dreams ended in a blinding flash. Well, the dreams didn't
exactly end, rather they changed. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
My name is Kristin Marshall, and it was the September after the summer
that a bunch of kidnappings were in the news. I'm sure you remember the one.
I used to jerk awake in the middle of the night and see my mom tip-toeing
into my room to make sure I was okay. I never told her that sometimes she
nearly scared me to death because I thought someone had come to take me away.
I knew seeing me there in bed gave her peace of mind, so I kept quiet.
Dad said there really weren't more kidnappings, only a lot more awareness
from the media because of the way two girls in two different towns had been
stolen right from their bedrooms. Mom said we needed an alarm just in case
someone tried to get into our house.
"Oh, Mom, nothing's gonna happen," I once told her. "We're too old.
Even Jacky's too old. She'd kick a kidnapper right between the legs. Don't
worry so much."
My mother heaved a great sigh, the irritating kind of sigh that said
I knew as much as a newborn baby did, or even less. "Oh, Kristin. You think
it's so easy, but it's not. Jacky's only eight, and a kidnapper would be
much stronger. Take that little girl in the paper last month. She kicked
and screamed and it did her no good. He still got her into the car."
I didn't listen. It wasn't my job to worrythey could do that.
I knew nothing would happen to us. Parents can be worrywarts, if you know
what I mean, and my mom was the queen of worrywarts.
On a Friday after school in mid-September my older sister, Meghan,
and I asked our mom to take us to the Rec to swim. Rec means the Orem
Recreational Center, but we just call it the Rec, like it was a train accident
or something: the Wreck. Mom said she had to take our van to the shop to
see why the engine light was on, and if we didn't mind going with her there
first, Dad would pick us all up and drop us off at the pool. We were lucky
because eight-year-old Jacky and Benjamin, who's ten, had gone home with
our cousins after school. Mom never let the little kids go without her to
the pool, even if we were with them. That's kind of funny because we all
swim real well, with all the lessons we've hadeven Jacky. She swims
like a dolphin. But like I said, Mom's a worrywart. She says someone has
Meghan was excited because some of our neighborhood friends would be
at the pool. Especially a boy named Wade Burke, who was a senior in high
school. When he moved in last year he wasn't much to look at, but this year
he suddenly shot up and filled out. He was tall, dark, and handsome, according
I guess she was right, but I didn't like the jock type. All they cared
about was sports and nothing about science or books. I loved books. It didn't
matter what they were about. Though science texts and adventure romances
were my favorite, I read all kinds of literature. Meghan loved only the romances.
In fact, she read them so fast that she was always books ahead of me on any
series we were reading together.
"Do I look all right in this new swimming suit?" Meghan asked from
our bathroom. She had bought it on sale at Wal-Mart at the first of the summer,
but it had been a little too big then. "It doesn't make me look fat, does
Meghan would have to gain twenty pounds to be anywhere near fat. She's
even skinner than I am. Despite her being two years older than me, we're
basically the same size except she's an inch taller. "You look fine," I told
her, trying not to roll my eyes.
"You'll be nice to Wade, won't you?" she asked me as she spread blemish
cream over an almost invisible pimple.
"I don't mind Wade. It's that weird friend he hangs out with. What's
his name? Jaybird?"
"Just Jay. And he's nice." Meghan patted her blonde hair that reached
almost down to her waist.
"What a dumb name."
"Maybe, but I think he likes you."
"Oh, where can I throw up!" But her words gave me a warm feeling inside.
Much as I would never admit it to Meghan, Jay was my make-believe hero in
the adventure romance novel I was reading. He was a junior, though, and way
old too for me, only an eighth-grader. Then again, there were only three
years separating us, and I liked to remind myself that my dad was four years
older than my mom.
"Oh, I wish I had more up here," Meghan tugged at the top of her suit.
"You're almost as big as me and I'm older."
"Hardly." I rolled my eyes before escaping from the bathroom. If I didn't
leave she'd be on about how she wished her eyes were as dark blue as mine
and that her hair was lighter. My little sister Jacky and I have hair the
color of sunshine, as my dad always said, and blue eyes as deep as the night
sky. We liked to joke that we were twins born five years apart. To Meghan's
disgust, her hair was darker, like the color of gold. I thought it was
beautifuland a darn sight better than Benjamin's dirty-looking blonde.
Meghan didn't agree. As soon as she got a job, I bet she'd get color contacts
and dye her hair.
When we arrived at the shop, Mom opened the van door. "Good afternoon,
Big Ned," she said to Mr. Lyman, our mechanic. She tucked her short, golden
hair behind her ear and smiled like she was really happy to see him.
He reached out his large hand. "Hello, Angie. It's good to see you."
What a nameBig Ned. Sounded like the mafia guy in my adventure
romance book. But he didn't look like one. He had a grizzled beard and was
as tall and strong-looking as a bear. He reminded me of a mountain man, not
a guy in a suit with bodyguards. I asked Mom once why they called him Big
Ned and she said he had a son named Ned. I wondered if they called his son
Little Ned. I didn't think he'd like that much. I wouldn't.
Just then Dad came in and they began to talk about when the van might
be ready. Meghan jumped out of the van and grabbed her swim bag, filled to
the brim with her curling iron, hairspray, and who knew what other junk.
I didn't budge. Mom and Dad knew Big Ned from the old neighborhood when I
was a baby. After discussing the van, they would move on to other things.
My eyes returned to my book. The heroine was posing as a maid to try
to free the hero, who in my mind resembled Jay. Even though it was just a
book, my heart pounded in fear for them both. I read as fast as I could to
see what would happen.
At last Mom called me out of the van. "You want to get to the pool,
Shoving my book into my bag, I climbed from the van. As I approached
my parents I heard Big Ned saying, "I'll have my nephew get right to it as
soon as possible. Give you a call a bit later. Let you know. But it's likely
it won't be done till late tomorrow." He reeked of cigarette smoke, and I
wondered how Mom and Dad could stand being so close to him. They must really
like him. They told me once that he was the most honest mechanic they'd ever
met in all of Utah Valley.
"Meghan, come on," Dad called. My sister was in the back of the garage,
talking to some guy. I was surprised. At home she's all talk, but around
strangers she's very shy. I don't understand it because what one person has
to say is just as important as what any one else might say.
"I know that in my heart," Meghan told me once. "It's like I have a
whole bunch of good ideas, but when I go to say them aloud, they don't come
out quite right. They come out in my diary just fine. In fact, I think maybe
I should be a romance writer."
"I'd read all your books," I had answered. "In between heart surgeries,
that is. Just don't make them too sappy."
Now Meghan came running over to us, looking flushed and rather pleased
"What took you so long?" I asked Meghan as we got into Dad's car.
"Mr. Lyman's nephew." Her voice lowered and her blue eyes became dreamy.
"He's really cute. He has kind of messed up brown hair and his face is very
tan. He said he's from Florida. And he's got these big brown eyes that seem
to look right into you. Anyway, I saw him here last time, but I've never
talked to him. Today he approached me! He said he thought I looked seventeen,
can you believe that?"
I couldn't. My sister was fifteen and looked maybe fourteen. "How old
She shrugged a shoulder, bare except for the strap of her swimsuit.
"Don't know. It's not like I'm serious about himyou know I like Wade.
But he's nice to talk to. I tried to get you to come over. We were waving
"It's okay. I was reading that book you gave me."
In the front seat Mom was pointing the way to the pool, though Dad already
knew where to go. "You'll have to pick up the girls, Gary," she said. "On
your way home from work, I mean."
Dad nodded. "I need to make up this little bit I've taken off to drive
you home, but I can be there by seven-thirty. Okay girls?"
"Seven-thirty?" groaned Meghan. "Dad, it's almost five now."
"Two and a half hours is plenty of time to be in the pool," he said
in his do-not-argue-with-me-young-lady voice.
"Your dad's right. It gets dark by seven. And besides, we're going to
a party tonight and we'll already be a bit late. We'll need you two to baby-sit."
Mom dug in her purse and came up with a few dollars. "Here, you can each
buy something from the vending machine. But remember not to keep your father
"We won't," we mumbled.
Outside the Rec Mom said as she always did, "Now remember, stay together
and don't go anywhere with strangers."
"Yeah, yeah. Of course not." We scrambled out of the car. "Bye," I shouted.
Without a backwards glance, we ran down the sidewalk to the entrance.
We left our towels and clothes in a locker and hurried to the indoor
pool. The warm air was thick with chlorine, and the sound in the huge room
was odd, giving everything an echo. The water shimmered under the lights,
moving randomly until it slapped against the sides of the tiled pool. There
was a shout from the far side where some kids were playing with a ball.
"There they are," Meghan said, turning to me. "You go first, okay? I
don't want to seem too anxious."
I started over while Meghan followed uncertainly. I began to wish she
weren't so shy. At home, she was normal, but she suddenly changed when she
walked out our door. Sometimes it was hard seeing my big sister act like
a little kid. Then again, I was probably so outgoing because she's the way
she is; someone had to speak up, and since Meghan never did, I learned
"Hey," I greeted our friends as I sat on the edge of the pool. The water
felt cool to my bare feet, not nearly as warm as I'd hoped.
Wade looked up at us and smiled very brightly. His sister Tamara did,
too. She was a year older than me and a year younger than Meghan. We both
really liked her.
Jay threw the ball at me. "So, you made it." He looked kind of funny
with his blonde hair plastered down with water, but I didn't mention it like
I would have normally; they never mention that kind of thing in my novels,
and for the moment at least, he was my hero.
"Why not?" I shrugged. I threw the ball back, hard enough to hurt if
he didn't catch it. He did.
Wade swam to the side of the pool and was talking to Meghan, his dark
eyes never leaving her face. I wondered if he could see how awkward she felt.
He was so close to her that the ends of her long hair brushed his face as
she slid forward into the water.
Some other kids arrived and we played tag for a long time. I was the
fastest and only Jay could catch me. Then we had a water fight. Jay and Wade
dunked me after I splashed them good. It was a lot of fun.
After a while the boys climbed out of the pool. "We have to get going,"
Wade said. "We're going to a movie later. You guys want to come?"
Meghan looked at me, obviously embarrassed to remind them that we were
too young to date. Even if going with them wasn't exactly a date, just a
bunch of kids going to the movies, Mom and Dad would never see it that way.
The prophet of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
says no dating until sixteen; and then in our family we were allowed only
to group date until we turned eighteen. I knew Wade and Tamara's parents
were a little more lenient, but they should know better than to ask us.
"Can't," I said. "Our parents are making us baby-sit." I'm never one
to beat around the bush, as my dad would say, but I said this for Meghan.
In a few months she would be sixteen and could go with them as much as she
"Yeah, our dad'll be here soon anyway," Meghan said. "But thanks."
We got out of the pool and dressed. While Meghan dried and curled her
bangs, I rubbed my hair with my towel until it hung in loose waves to my
shouldersall one length.
"Got an elastic?" I asked Meghan. She did and I put my hair in a ponytail
so it wouldn't make my neck cold.
When we got outside it was pretty dark, though not quite seven-thirty.
I shivered since my suit was still wet under my T-shirt and jeans. I began
to wish I'd changed out of it like Meghan. A brown-haired man with a hat
pulled low over his head came from behind us, followed by an older couple.
They got into separate cars and drove away. Then we were alone.
"Look, it's Wade!" Meghan pointed to a rather battered dark car that
pulled up beside us. Jay was driving.
I leaned my arms on the window opening of the back door where Tamara
was sitting, while Meghan stood by the front passenger side facing Wade.
I bent to whisper in Tamara's ear. "I think they're hitting it off."
Tamara nodded and gave me a wide smile. I could tell she approved.
"Want a ride home?" Wade asked Meghan.
She looked indecisive so I popped my head out of the car, nearly pulling
out my ponytail on the hook above the window. "Our dad's on his way," I assured
Wade as I rubbed my sore head.
He smiled. "Oh, that's right. You told us already."
"I have my cell here," Jay said from the driver's seat. "We could call
to make sure."
I shook my head. "Thanks, but it won't do any good. Our parents are
always on time."
"Okay, then. See you around."
We stepped back from the car and watched Jay take off. Meghan sighed
heavily. I ignored her and started down the sidewalk to pace, hoping it would
warm me up a little. The dark sky was cloudless and the stars seemed so close,
though I could only begin to understand how far away they really were. I
remembered my science teacher at school saying that if you were lucky enough
to live to seventy-seven and a half years old, you could look up at the star
Regulus in the heart of the constellation Leo and you would be seeing the
light that star emitted on the day you were born. Pretty interesting
Sometimes when I stared up at the sky, I thought I might become an
astronomer instead of a heart surgeon. I wondered what it would be like to
visit a star.
I laughed aloud at myself. "You've been watching way too much Star
I walked almost to the end of the sidewalk. Glancing behind me, I saw
Meghan sitting on the steps that led to the upper entrance of the Rec. She
was staring in the direction Jay's car had gone, as though hoping he and
Wade would return.
I decided to walk the remaining few steps and go back. The large lawns
of the Rec gave me a feeling of eerie calmness in the dark, but I liked the
solitude of it. Sometimes with all the noise at home, it's hard to think.
My thoughts scattered at the sound of an engine. Twirling my dark blue
CTR ring on my middle finger, I looked up to see a car coming toward me,
headlights blazing like twin suns. I blinked, trying to see past the light.
Probably it was Dad, and he'd already picked up Meghan on the stairs. I couldn't
see where she had been because of the light in my eyes, but I was sure he
would have spotted her first. Stepping to the curb, I reached for the door
and opened it.
It wasn't my father's car.
As I registered that fact, a hand whipped out and pulled me inside.
It all happened so fast I didn't have time to scream. Or to kick or yell.
The driver peeled off in a squeal of tires.
As he turned the car around a corner, I collected myself enough to began
to fight back. I clawed at the hand grabbing me, but it held like iron. His
other hand left the wheel for a moment and slammed into my head. Stars burst
into bright flame all around me and then I was falling backward into a dark
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