"Hey dad, where'd you put the soda?" Steve shouted.
"It's in the frig, bottom shelf."
Mark, Steve, Alex and Amanda were at Mark's house, decorating it for the surprise party for Jesse's niece's birthday. Rebecca was turning 16 today. Jesse was out with Becca at the mall, keeping her away from the house while they were getting ready. Mark was helping Alex hung the streamers up, while Steve was getting the food ready. Amanda was wrapping some of the last presents.
"Hey, Mark, when's Becca supposed to get here?"
Mark looked at the clock, and said,
"In about an hour."
Meanwhile, Jesse and his niece, Rebecca, were at the bookstore. They had been there since about 11:00, 1 hour ago. They had to leave to go by Dr. Sloan's house, so her uncle could get something he left there, and then they were going to go back to her uncle's house. She couldn't believe she was finally 16! Suddenly, her uncle interrupted her thoughts.
"Becca? Are you there?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry. I was just, thinking."
"Have you chosen what you want yet?"
She held up a copy of Assassins, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
"OK, let's go pay for it."
They went to the cash register, and Jesse paid for the book. They walked through the mall, just looking in shops. Having a fun time.
Back at the beach house, Amanda, Alex, Mark and Steve had finished. They had gotten done with about 10 minutes to spare.
"How do you think Becca will react?" Amanda asked Mark.
"Well, knowing her," Mark said, "she'll be surprised for a bit, and then she'll have fun."
Back at the mall, Jesse and Becca were getting into his car. They left the mall, and drove to Mark's beach house. They got out, and went to the door. Mark had given Jesse a key, so he could let himself and Becca in. They two walked in to the house. All the lights were off.
"Uncle Jesse, what's going on?"
Jesse put on a fake confused face.
"I don't know. Let's go see if anyone's around here."
Jesse led his niece around, without being too obvious. They made their way to the kitchen They got to the doorway, and the lights came on, and a bunch of people from Community General jumped out, along with Steve, yelling, "Surprise!" Becca just stayed still, mouth open, shocked.
Jesse started laughing.
"Happy Birthday Becca!" Jesse told Becca, laughing at the same time. They all dug into the food. After they'd had had their full, Jesse and Steve led Becca over to the seat of honor for opening presents. Becca proceeded to open the presents, and got a lot of good stuff. Jesse picked up the last box, and handed it to her. She opened it up, and inside found a bike helmet and a single car key on a ring.
"Before you jump to conclusions, that key goes to Mark's car. There's something for you in there."
She grabbed the helmet and key and ran outside. After she opened the car, she looked inside, and found what her uncle meant. Inside was a mountain bike. After she had run out, everyone else had followed her. Steve helped Becca get the bike out of the car. She climbed out after him, and went directly to her uncle, and gave him a big hug.
"Thanks Uncle Jesse!" She let her uncle go. "Thank you! A mountain bike. Just what I've had my eyes on. This has been a great birthday, even though mom and dad aren't here."
At the mention of Becca's parents, Jesse recoiled a bit. Becca didn't seem to see her uncle to that, but Steve had noticed. Rebecca got on the bike, and went for a trial drive. When she was out of earshot, Steve went over to his friend.
"Jess, is something wrong? Why'd you seem taken aback when Becca mentioned her parents?"
It took Jesse a few seconds to answer.
"Becca had been living with her parents until about a year ago. I got a letter in the mail about six months ago, asking if I would be willing to take in Rebecca, my niece. I didn't even know my brother had a kid. I said yes, and a social worker came over, and told me about Rebecca, and why she's not with her parents anymore."
Jesse had to take a breath, and then he continued.
"Apparently, one day, Becca came to school with bruises on her arms. A teacher asked her why she had the bruises, and she told them she didn't know. Eventually, she told them her dad beat her because she got a 95 on a test, and her dad wanted her to get a perfect score. After that, she broke down in tears. I don't know why she brought her parents up now. I thought she had forgotten how they were. Maybe she forgot how awful her dad was. I doubt it, but I hope."
Jesse took a deep breath, and looked at Steve, who sighted. They looked up and watched Becca in the street on her bike. Mark, who had been watching Becca, turned around and started to walk back to the house. Suddenly, as if in slow motion, Jesse saw a car come around the corner, and the driver seemed drunk, since the car was swerving. Rebecca didn't see the car, as it continued to swerve. It got closer to her, and then Jesse heard a scream, a sickening thud, and a crunch. Becca flew up and over the car, and then landed on the road with a thud.