Prologue

The restless noise of the awaiting surprise party crouched anxiously behind every small covering they could fit themselves behind. The small children hid behind doors, under furniture, or lay so still under thick sheets one could scarcely pick out their faint breath. The young teenagers giggled in anticipation of their awaited special someone to open the door. The adults hid in closets or stood lifelessly beside a wall, blending in with the surroundings.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith smiled at each other, entwining their fingers together. Their eyes spoke words of love and caring for the other, as well as their shared excitement toward the surprise party for their oldest daughter. A new graduate from Dixie High School, she had just been accepted into a large college located in Las Vegas. They reflected on the euphoric countenance their daughter's face had shone when she had read the letter of acceptance, hands trembling wildly.

"She's here!" her best friend, Lauren, whispered out to the party urgently. Silence immediately filled the two story house. There wasn't a trace of anything suspicious showing. Mr. and Mrs. Smith smiled. Walking into the kitchen, they peered through the curtains and saw their daughter open up the driver's door of her gloss-shined blue '67 Convertible Mustang and quickly walk out and forward the seat. She loaded her arms with bags and boxes with the many things she had purchased at the mall across the small town of St. George, Utah.

"You think we're bankrupt yet?" joked Mr. Smith, chuckling lightly under his baritone voice with amusement, pulling his wife gently from the curtains and toward her favorite seat at the table. She resigningly left the sight of their grown up little girl and sat down. She looked at him, her bright green eyes sparkling with life.

"Oh, I'm sure she left us a dollar at least," Mrs. Smith teased back, grinning even larger at the deep rumble of her husband's chuckle.

"I'm home!" came a muffled sound from the front door. Soon, the sun-tanned figure of their daughter walked briskly through the kitchen into the living room. With a thud, all her new possessions were in heap in the middle of the otherwise spotless room.

Mr. Smith glanced up over his edition of the day's newspaper and winked at Mrs. Smith, continuing to skim through the articles as their daughter came in.

"Hi, Daddy. Hi, Momma," she said, giving them both a quick kiss on both their cheeks.

"How was the mall, honey?" Mrs. Smith asked.

"Oh my gosh, you wouldn't believe the amount of people there!"

"Lots?"

"Hardly any! It was wonderful!"

"Wow, that is something."

"Isn't it though?" She straddled a chair opposite her father. "Daddy?"

"Yes?"

"I loooovvvveeeeee you . . . !!" But, before the father and daughter could get into their never ending bribing game, the phone rang. Mrs. Smith clicked on the cordless.

"Honey," she said to her daughter. "Mrs. Daniels needs the broom from the closet. Would you take it to her?"

"Sure."

Mrs. Smith tiptoed around the corner toward the double speaker stereo, waiting for the moment to blast the music, while Mr. Smith walked quietly behind his daughter. He grinned as he watched her struggle to open the jammed door. Finally, with a final POP! the door sprang open with five people jumping out with a scream of SURPRISE! as everyone came out of their hiding places.

"Oh my gosh!" exclaimed their daughter with her face deepening to a fine crimson blush throughout her face's complexion. She wrapped her arms around everyone, burying her red face in everyone's hair and shoulders. Soon, loud music with a heavy beat thrummed throughout the entire house, destroying any chance of a silent evening.

Lauren came up behind their daughter with a wrapped box. Their daughter took it tentatively, plopping down on the couch along with three other friends. Passionately, she ripped through the wrapping paper and ribbon. Five minutes later, she lifted the box's lid and gasped. Tenderly, she lifted a beautiful satin gown up.

"Oh my gosh, Lauren! Thank you so much!"

"I knew you'd like it, Rachelle," Lauren beamed, hugging her best friend for the hundredth time.

Rachelle held the gorgeous dress up to her slim body, glancing into the full length mirror. The red satin matched her beautifully. Her fair complexion seemed to be rosy in color, her thick brown hair seeming to be darker, bringing out the brilliant blue sparkle in her intense eyes.

"Oh, Lauren," Rachelle whispered.

"Just think of it as a forget-me-not," shrugged Lauren. "And when you wear it and grab every Las Vegan guy's attention, you will always thank ME that they see you!"

Rachelle made a face at Lauren, sticking out her tongue. Lauren giggled, taking the dress from Rachelle's arms and placing it on a hanger, hung it on the back of the ajar front door.

"That's not all," Mr. Smith said, speaking up. He handed Rachelle a set of keys and a map of a college campus. "Your mother and I have taken the liberty of reserving you an apartment not far from the college. We've already taken care of your first year of payment, that way you can worry about your schooling now and rent later. We figured you'd want time to settle into the new life at Sin City before you started working in it."

"Oh, Daddy!" Rachelle squealed, throwing her arms tightly around his large middle, squeezing tightly.

"Also," chimed in Mrs. Smith. "We'll be driving you to Las Vegas tomorrow morning to help you move into your apartment and wish you luck in your new way of life."

"Gosh, you make it sound like I'm not coming back," Rachelle teased lightly.

"Hopefully you won't," came the quick voice of her youngest brother, Justin.

Everyone laughed and the room of giggling girls retired to Rachelle's room for the night.