I want to let you know that are few swear words in this chapter. Nothing overly graphic, but I still would like to give you a heads up.
This day was just like any other sunny spring day in Twinbrook. The sun rose at 5:30am like it always does. The papergirl dropped off the morning newspaper, like she always does. Brandon dressed in his uniform and headed to the military base, like he always does. Stella dressed in her scrubs for her day at the hospital, like she always does.
However, this is not like any other day. This is the day that changes everything.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over. The snow has melted, allowing wild flowers to spring up all over the yard. Cindy and Ryan Charming went back to Appaloosa Plains, and everything was starting to get back to normal.
Brandon completed his basic training, which meant a promotion at work. On the plus side, he no longer had to clean the latrines. But on the down side, he has been leaving earlier for work and hasn’t been able to make breakfast. Not that Stella had time for anything other than a quick cup of coffee anyway.
Stella drank her morning coffee in silent contemplation. She glanced over at his bedroom door as she leaned against the kitchen counter. She was proud of Brandon’s promotion, yet she still felt sad at the same time.
There were several times over the holiday season that she thought that Brandon was going to open up to her, and tell her that he loves her. Stella thought back to the time that she and Brandon had been ice skating on the lake together. She held his hand as they used each other for balance as they maneuvered across the ice. Stella was wearing gloves, but she could still feel how warm Brandon’s hands were despite the chill in the air. Even when she no longer needed him for balance she couldn’t will herself to let go of his hand. But that is where it ended. Brandon never opened up to Stella, or gave any hint that he may have wanted to be more romantic.
“He seems content with being just friends,” Stella thought to herself as she stood, still fixated on his bedroom door. “So I guess I am going to have to learn to be content with being just friends too.”
Stella’s routine at the hospital was the same each and every day. The day starts with morning rounds with her fellow pediatric students. Then they check the progress of a few of the worse cases from the week. Finally, at the end of the day there is a study session with Dr. Meeks. But before the study session there is lunch.
Stella ate her lunch with her usual friends, like she always does. There is Mike, who is in the pediatric program with Stella, and Sarah, one of the ER doctors. Stella was enjoying her garden salad and listening to Sarah talk about last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, when out of nowhere Sarah’s pager started to buzz.
“Oh shit, I gotta go!” Sarah got up and ran out of the cafeteria leaving her half eaten yogurt still on the table. Then other pagers in the cafeteria started to go off. It was like a domino effect, one pager after the other in a wave of buzzing. People were rushing out of the cafeteria leaving their trays and lunch bags at their tables. Then Stella’s pager was the next to buzz.
“Need you in ER ASAP”
Stella was studying pediatrics so she had never had a need to ever visit the Emergency Room before today. It was a eerie feeling walking into that ER for the first time. It wasn’t the busy chaos that you might expect. It was calm; almost too calm. The kind of calm that leaves you with a false sense of security just before the hurricane bears down on top of you. Mike was with her, and the both of them were able to find Dr. Meeks who filled them in on everything.
“We need all hands on deck,” Dr. Meeks explained to them, “because there has been an accident at the military base.”
“But we are in pediatrics,” Mike talked fast and in a high pitched tone. You could tell that he was starting to panic. “What can we do?”
“You and Stella will help with triage,” Dr. Meeks remained calm as he directed his students. “Help give basic care to the patients who are not critical. Dr. Hart and I will be coordinating the OR for the most critical patients. You got that Stella?”
“Yeah sure,” she lied. The truth of the matter was that the only thing Stella heard was accident at the military base.
A million different scenarios played out in Stella’s mind. What exactly had happened at the base? Was Brandon involved? Was he hurt? Maybe Brandon was out on a training mission and missed the accident. But what if he wasn’t?! Then where was he when it all happened? And, more importantly, where is Brandon now?!
At that last thought all things started to happen at once. The ambulances started to arrive. One after another. Stella helped as many patients as she could. And from there she was able to piece together the puzzle of what happened.
A helicopter was out on a training exercise when it started going haywire. It was spinning out of control and crashed into one of the barracks, which immediately caught fire. They were trying to put out the fire before it reached the ammo room, but it was too late. One little ember blew towards the ammo, and the whole thing caught fire creating a giant explosion.
So where was Brandon during all of this? Stella still had no clue. She was working on helping as many patients as she could, all the while Brandon never left her mind. Stella wanted desperately to see him and make sure that he is okay. But so far there has been no sign of him. The more time that passes, more horrible ideas began to creep in and poison Stella’s thoughts.
What would Stella do if Brandon came in bloody and broken? Or God forbid, what if he was dead? What would she do then? Stella tried to hide her worries as best as she could, but Mike could see the panic in her eyes.
“If I see Brandon, I’ll let you know.” he tried to reassure her.
After what seemed like an eternity, the worst of it was over. Many of the doctors were relieved that the injury count wasn’t as bad as the initial reports led them to believe. Yet Stella couldn’t share in their relief. Brandon was still missing in action. After Dr. Meeks dismissed her, Stella made her way to the first empty On Call Room that she could find. It was there that she called her aunts.
“The accident is all over the news.” Aunt April informed Stella. “How is Brandon?“
“I don’t know,” Stella sobbed. “Nobody has seen him. I have no idea where he is, or how he is.”
“I’m sure he is alright my Sweat Pea,” Aunt May consoled.
“No news is good news, right?” Aunt June added.
“I just don’t know,” Stella continued to sob, this time more uncontrollably. “He could be laying under a pile of debris right now for all I know. What if I never see him again? What if he dies not knowing how I truly feel? I love him and I can’t imagine my life without him, and now I will never be able to tell him.“
With the realization that Brandon, the love of Stella’s life, is gone Stella broke down. Her aunts were trying to console her, but she couldn’t hear them. The phone fell out of her hand, as she fell to the floor crying out in sorrow. Stella desperately wanted to see Brandon again. Hear his voice one last time, look into those beautifully blue eyes. So she could finally tell him that she loves him.
But, it was too late!