The Turning Point

As I turned to leave the hotel room, I took one last look at myself in the mirror. There stood a different girl, one I hardly recognized. A girl who knew what she wanted. A girl with twice the self confidence of the girl I had left in eighth grade. The future had seemed limited then, confined somehow. Now the possibilities lay stretched out before me like the vast deserts of South Texas. "A brave new girl in a completely different world." I just wondered if Jason would notice the drastic changes in me, the person I have become. Even though our families were close, he never showed any particular interest in me, he even told me a long time ago that I was their triplet. I stared hard at the face before me and she stared back at me with silent determination. Maybe he would not see me. I certainly was unremarkable in middle school. Back then I was shy, trying hard not to stand out in anyway. Far better to blend into the background unnoticed, than stand out. An eternity had passed since then.

I was in my dream dress, a purple strapless with a corset back, jeweled front, and a puffy skirt with firework bursts of sparkles. Committing my look to memory, I told myself; don't forget you look gorgeous tonight, no matter how he reacts to you. Then I made my way to the door and took the first fateful step to the formal anniversary party.

When I reached the party I realized with a sinking feeling that I was late, again. Luckily the party had not even started, largely in part to the introductions of the anniversary couples and their families having yet to be announced. I drank in the sights, and the intoxicating smells of food and perfume. The hotel staff had done an amazing job on transforming the dull and dreary room we first looked at, to a majestic wonder. There were colorful lights everywhere. Even the Grand Staircase had been intricately lined with lights and accented with red roses. Surrounding the dance floor were spotlights that illuminated the swaying couples. Miniature waterfalls on the tables added a tranquil background noise and a bit of color with the small white rose petals floating in them. The pavilion outside looked exceptional with the brilliant, splashing waterfall which was lit where it met the creek, before it flowed into an enormous pond. Orchids, roses and tulips of the most beautiful shades of pink, red, and white outlined the waterfall all the way down and around the pond, creating a pleasing path for the eye to follow. The staff had definitely gone all out, with our input on the decorations, for my parents and the Hernandez's special anniversary party. As I was taking in the breath taking scenery before me I heard the announcement I had been waiting for, "Will the immediate families of the two anniversary couples, please, come up to the second floor for introductions?" This was everyone's cue to move towards the stairs in preparation for the introductions, and my cue to get up there fast.

I made my way through the crowd and back outside to the side entrance. Quickly realizing that getting up the tiny stair case was not going to be an easy feat, considering my dress was a bit quite puffier than the staircase. Still, somehow I managed to get up it with a lot of smashing, and puffing back out in the end, but it was worth it when I saw the looks on my parents' faces. It was the proud look of seeing their only daughter as they had always imagined, all grown up. That look made me feel better than any pep talk I could have ever given myself, it also said more to me than words ever could, they were sad and ecstatic at the same time. However, this was their night and I was determined not to steal it from them, after all they were the ones who were celebrating thirty years of marriage, not me.

"Mom, you look beautiful. Dad, you look like a penguin." I said which was grounds for me to get the 'Karin you have got to be kidding me' look, causing me to crack up laughing. It was the look my father gave me when he was trying not to laugh at his daughter's stupid joke. Mom was as serene as they come, she looked absolutely stunning in her little black dress, it was form fitting, and had sparkling sequins lining the straps. "Dad, I was only joking, you look very handsome," I quickly added. His tuxedo looked so dapper on him, and somehow made him seem bigger, taller than I ever remembered. Smiling I told them what I always did when I did not want them to worry about me. "I love y'all. You make the cutest couple, too."

"Karin, you look lovely. I love your dress; it really shows off your figure." Mom replied, with a sweet smile as her light brown eyes light up. It was easy to see where my reflection got its beauty.

"I agree with your mom, you look all grown up in it." Dad said, in a reminiscent voice. He had to be thinking of his little girl, a younger version of me, the one who had begged for piggyback rides.

"Thanks Mom and Dad. Tonight is your night. So have fun and live it up."

Then I noticed the Hernandez Family; Jessica, Jason, and their parents walking up the stairs. Jessica was wearing a tight fitting pink dress that looked like it was held on with nothing more than thread. Typical, but amazing none the less.

"Ica!" I squealed at her.

"Kare!" Jessica screamed as she ran over to give me a hug, her honey blonde hair framed her oval face and bright green eyes. "You look absolutely stunning! I wish I had gotten my favorite dress of the millions we had tried on."

"Quit giving me such a hard time. I had to have it." I laughed, moving my hair behind my ear nervously.

"Okay, Kare." She said before she whispered into my ear, "Doesn't Jason look hot in his tux? Strangely enough he even asked what color your dress was so that he could match you. Look at his tie and his handkerchief." No she was not one for subtlety. Leave it to Jessica to point out my major infatuation with her brother in the bluntest way possible. Sometimes I could almost swear she was guy.

I pulled away and nodded yes to answer her question. Then greeted Mother, Mrs. Hernandez and Father, Mr. Hernandez, with a hug and a few simple exchanges of how good they looked. Then I took a quick sideways glance at Jason and lost my breath. He looked dazzling to say the least in his black tuxedo with, as Jessica had said, a royal purple tie and handkerchief. This was an absolute 180 from the Jason I knew as a child, he was clean and that changed a lot.

"Karin, you look simply gorgeous." He said in a husky voice, flicking his index finger off of his thumbs. That one movement brought back so many childhood memories. Jason nervous about a dare that Jessica had given him or the time Jason thought he failed a math test. Needless to say he got a B plus on it.

"Thank you. So do you. I love the . . ." But before I got a chance to finish my sentence the DJ cut me off.

"Now let us welcome the couples being honored here tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez, Mr. and Mrs. Smithheart, and their children, Jessica and Jason Hernandez, and Karin Smithheart."

As he announced each of our names, we descended in pairs, the Hernandez parents, then mine, and then Jessica, Jason and I went down together, one of us on each of Jason's arms. Halfway down the Grand Staircase each pair stopped and made a little speech, congratulating each other, and thanking everyone for coming. But when it was our turn we each said something special about our parents and their never-ending love for each other. After my turn was over I handed the microphone to Jason on my left. I briefly wondered what he would say since he was still not speaking to his parents. Then I proceeded to have a look around the room. I saw my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, and my great-uncle. That was about it for my family. I then moved on and saw a lot of my childhood friends waiting and watching including, Ryan and his younger sister, Rebekah, Alicia, Josh, Alex, and Lisa. These people were like family too Jessica, Jason and me. We all had secret handshakes and signals we used to use.

As I finished looking around Jessica ended her speech, and we descended into the room below us. When I reached the dance floor, I beginning to realize how far my parents had come in life, having been married for just over 30 years and still being in love. Tears started to form in my eyes as I watched them greet their friends and gaze at one another with all the love and adoration in the world. Without thinking about it I stepped outside to dry my eyes. The last thing I needed was for them to see me crying and come running to see what was wrong, especially when all I was doing was admiring them for all they had accomplished in their lifetime and marriage.

"Karin?" I heard someone say by my ear. Whoever it was had seen me step outside and had come to check on me. But I was not expecting who I turned to face, Jason. He was only a few inches from me, his breath sweet on my face. His body close enough to touch, the heat rolling off of it. Just a small distance kept us apart.

"Y-Yes?" I stammered, my heart was in overdrive as he continued to stare at me.

"What's wrong? Why are you crying?" His bright blue eyes colored with enough concern to match his voice. "Are you okay?"

Would I ever be calm around him? My heart stuttered again. No probably not."I am fine. I was just watching my parents and lost my breath. They have been through so much and they still are in love and hopelessly devoted to each other. I just get overly emotional seeing the way they look at each other, and can only hope I will find someone like that. Someone who will hold me close and tell me they love me all the time." I said wrapping my arms around my waist before drying my tears. Here was the man I wanted for eternity and all he could do was stand and stare at me.

Feeling like a complete idiot for spouting my hearts deepest desires. "I am so glad you were able to make the party. How long are you staying? How are things at your boarding school?" As the endless barrage of questions came out as I tried to search his eyes for something, I am not sure what. Though for some reason he was suddenly avoiding my gaze.

It was at that moment, waiting for his answer, I really looked at him, and how much he had changed over the years, besides just being clean. His hair was longer and had darkened from honey blonde to dirty blonde, complementing his perfectly tanned face. He was taller, at least a head taller than me, over six feet and muscular, but still lean. I could tell he had become slightly more athletic, since his time at the Academy, but not enough to be obsessed with the gym. A guy who loves the gym will only ever love it more than you. At least that was my opinion.

"Actually I am transferring back to Ridgeton High, with you and Jessica." He was looking just over my shoulder.

"What? I thought you loved it over there. At least that is what Jessica's been telling me." I replied turning around to look at the scenery before us. It was breath taking but not as breath taking as Jason was in the moon's starry glow.

"Jess, lied. I hate it out there. I just did not want to come home. I was too scared to face my past, and the mistakes I have made along the way." Jason took a step closer and turned his head to the right to look at me.

"What mistakes?" I asked curiously, he was so close that I could smell the mint on his breath. It was doing nothing to help the clarity of my mind.

"The only reason I came to this anniversary party was because of you," Jason replied with an odd expression. My heart raced. This was more than I had hoped for. Could this be what he tried to tell me that night so many years ago? Before my left fell so badly apart? My heart had been broken into so many tiny pieces?

Curiously, though, I wondered why he would change the subject so fast. What was so bad at school, and what mistakes was he referring to. All that hardly mattered now since he said 'because of you'. It made my heart melt back together in the resemblance of a heart again. Maybe I could heal again.

"And your family, of course." And just like that my heart was back to its former state. "Your parents helped raise us, Jess and me. It meant a lot to us and we love them like they were our parents. They always went out of their way to help us out when we couldn't talk to our own parents."

Upon hearing the completion of his "heartfelt" statement, I felt a warm unfamiliar, embarrassing blush creep into my cheeks. I had never had a habit of blushing but just the thought of Jason brought one to my cheeks on rare occasions. Was the 'because of you' in a sisterly way more than the I-really-like-you-possibly even-love-you-way. Before I had a chance to dwell on this, I realized he was watching my face. I felt the overwhelming urge to hug him, but I hesitated and decided against it. I chose the safer route, a change in the subject. I didn't want to stay a friend who just comforted in times of need.

"I love it here. Don't you think it's so beautiful?" I exclaimed with a twirl, my arms extended towards the sky.

In response he gave me his special smile, the one I had constantly seen as we grew up. But, I never noticed it directed at me before, or maybe I had been too dense to notice.

I replied automatically with a smile of my own, a special glowing one for him. Once our eyes connected everything else became non-existent as we stared at each other for the longest moment before snapping back to reality and looking through the glass windows at the gathering.

While standing there sounds of music and laughter began to filter through to us. Then my favorite song came on. It perfectly described how I felt about Jas, that he was my forever and my future. I realized in that moment that I had to be with him, for eternity, even if it took him, a lifetime, to realize we belonged together. But before I had a chance to get really excited he started talking again.

"I would love to ask the most beautiful girl in the room to dance, but I am not sure how."

The words cut through me like a knife. What a jerk! Well, I wasn't going to let him have the satisfaction. "Oh, I suppose you just go right up and ask her right out." I said as I turned to go. The tears were building in my eyes and would soon roll down my face in streams. I had to escape, and fast. Jason's firm hand gently grasped my arm and slowly turned me toward him. His eyes sparkled impishly.

"Rin would you 'Kare' to dance?" He asked with a deep bow. I was caught off guard and lost my momentum but recovered quickly, the tears vanishing back into my eyes, after a couple of quick blinks.

"Nice play on words, your highness. Of course I would." I answered with a playful curtsy.

Jason led me further out on the patio and said "I am rather new to this slow dance thing can you teach me please?" Flashing his patented puppy dog smile.

Laughing I replied, "If you insist. Put both of your hands on my waist. Now my hands go on your neck so don't squirm. I know it is your ticklish spot."

"How do you remember that from four years ago?" Jason questioned me as he pulled back a little to look in my face.

"I don't really know. To tell you the truth. I love this song!" I exclaimed quickly thinking how weird it was that we could still hear the music perfectly all the way outside. I was glad that it had given me the chance to change the subject; he didn't need to know how obsessed I was with him.

"What is it?" Jason quizzically asked.

"I don't know the name but I know the lyrics. I think it is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard." In response all I got was a befuddled look.

"Oh I do know this one. 'My life has changed since I found you again. I couldn't understand the change in myself. Now that I have my arms around your waist, I see what I had been missing from our time apart.'" Jason started to sing in a voice that I barely recognized as his.

"Ace, you know this song?!" I asked incredulously looking at his handsome face, feeling like an echo.

His piercing blue eyes seemed to go right to the depths of my heart and soul. They were almost smoldering with a look I had never seen in his eyes before. It was the look, almost that feeling that is connected with that magical pull, of someone wanting to kiss me. I looked deep into his eyes and realized that now was the time. Looking up and raising my chin to look at his face, I started to close my eyes. It was then that I saw out of my peripheral vision the crowd looking out at us.

Or so I thought. I quickly discovered that they were looking just to the right of us. Turning I followed their gaze and found myself looking at the barrel of a gun. Just past that gun was a pair of dark menacing eyes, but they were not on me or anyone else at the party. They were trained on Jason as the shooter took his aim. My mind jumped into hyper drive.

I knew I had to protect Ace and turned my body in front of his as a shield and then the deadly pop of a gun going off echoed in my ears. The next thing I knew I was going down in Jason's arms as if in a dip before I landed on the concrete. Jason held me tight in his arms; lying there I felt the safest I had ever felt. There was a warm sensation on my back, and the realization hit me that it was my blood. But as excruciating as the pain was I could bring myself to regret my decision. The last lyrics of the song floated to me, "How could I face a life without you if I should ever lose your love?" The irony of the lyrics seemed so fitting. I was about to lose the only thing I had ever truly loved. Seeing his face now I realized he loved me more than I could ever have imagined and that he did not know how much I cared for him. The thought of never being able to tell him, terrified me as I felt myself slip into unconsciousness.

"Jessica blackout the windows. Get all of our parents and tell them to come out and no one else." I heard Jason scream at her as I regained consciousness and saw his face swim into view as I opened my eyes. "Hold on just a little longer Karin, Please." My angel begged with tears in his eyes.

Jessica was back in a flash I could hear her heavy breathing but I didn't dare move my eyes away from Jason afraid to cause him more agony.

"Okay, Jas I did it but they can't save her. Only you can. You have to do it." Jessica pleaded in a strained almost commanding voice.

"I can't I don't know how." Jason sobbed. "There is so much blood."

"Yes, you do. Maybe she is the prophecy. Jason you have to try." She begged, falling onto her knees, her tear soaked eyes peering through her fingers.

My angel pleaded with me, "RinRin, I am sorry. Please forgive me if I cannot save you, but it is not your time."

Anything was better than letting him know, the excruciating pain I was feeling from my wound. He did not deserve to suffer with me, "Of course. I...I…have love..d you…ever since I could…remember." I managed to gasp out. Staring into his clear ocean eyes I hoped that my message had gotten through to him. My body ached with the pain I wanted to take away from him. My hands tried to wipe away his tears, and failed miserably. Then the most glorious thing happened in the worst of circumstances, he kissed me, and once again my consciousness slipped away from me.