As Nathan drove back to Orem that afternoon, he was fretting so much about his relationship with Marie that he hadn’t even turned on the car radio, so he didn’t hear the news reports until he got home. When he walked in the door, Vanessa called to him from the front room. “Have you heard what happened?” she asked. “Southern California got hit by a huge earthquake today.”
He joined her and Denise in front of the TV and watched as a skyscraper became engulfed in flames. The report soon switched to footage from a helicopter that clearly showed where a fault line had opened up, creating a deep gash across the landscape. Homes were tumbling into the void, and roads disappeared into it.
“How big was the quake?” Nathan asked.
“They’re saying it was a 7.6,” Vanessa said. “There have been several strong aftershocks already. I’m so worried. I have a sister and brother who live down there. I’ve tried calling them, but the lines are all jammed.”
They continued to watch as reports came in from several different locations. Since it hit in the early afternoon, millions of people were trapped away from their homes. Several key freeways were cracked and unusable, and fires seemed to be sprouting up everywhere. They showed another shot where an entire block of homes had been jolted and now all sharply tilted in one direction.
“This is terrible,” Nathan said. “The damages are going to be in the billions of dollars.”
Garrett soon arrived home, and they all watched until the news reports started repeating themselves. Vanessa began preparing dinner, and Nathan said to Garrett, “Can we talk for a minute?”
They went into the living room, and Garrett asked, “What’s going on?”
“I’ve got a new job offer, and I think I’m going to take it.”
“Really?” Garrett asked. “Who with?”
“The Church. When I was on my mission Elder Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve told me about this opportunity, and so I followed up on it last week. They want me to start on Monday.”
“Wow, that’s fast,” Garrett said. “What will you be doing?”
“It’s mainly humanitarian work, such as delivering supplies and building shelters. I’ll have housing in Salt Lake, but it sounds like I’ll be traveling a lot.”
“Well, if you’re happy with it, then I support you. Besides, I sensed the Toys-R-Us job wasn’t going to last forever.”
“Thanks, Dad. The hardest part will be not living here. I’ve really started to bond with Vanessa and Denise---and you.”
“I feel the same way. But you’ll be able to visit, right?”
“Once in a while,” Nathan said. “They said they’ll provide all of the transportation I need, so I won’t be using my car. Since you made the down payment, I’ll let you decide what to do with it.”
Garrett raised his eyebrows. “Won’t you need it when the job is done?”
“Maybe, but they said this job could last several months.”
“Hmm. I guess I’ll just park it in the driveway with a ‘For Sale’ sign and see if there are any takers.”
“Thanks, Dad. Please don’t think I’m not appreciative of everything you’ve done for me since I got home. It has really meant a lot to me.”
“No problem,” Garrett said. “It’s the least I could do.”
During dinner, they talked some more about the earthquake, which led Nathan to tell Vanessa and Denise about his new job and that he’d be moving out. They weren’t very happy about it, but they said they supported his decision. After dinner, Nathan felt prompted to take Denise out for a treat. He stopped by her bedroom where she was listening to music.
“Hey, would it be all right if I treated you to some dessert?”
Denise seemed surprised, but said, “Sure!”
They let Vanessa and Garrett know where they were going, then they got in the car and started driving.
“What would you like?” he asked.
“Let’s split a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts,” she said with a smile. “Mom never lets me eat those.”
“Sounds good to me!”
Within a few minutes they had each picked out six donuts and a drink. They moved to a table in the store. Denise quickly sat down and selected a cream-filled one. She bit halfway through it and got it all over her face.
“Oh, that’s so good,” she mumbled.
Nathan laughed, admiring this younger sister he barely knew. Once they had both eaten three donuts, they took a break.
“Denise, I want you to know you can always count on me. No matter what happens, I’m your brother. Don’t ever forget that.”
She smiled. “It’s nice to a have a big brother. I’m sad you’re moving to Salt Lake, though. You’ll have to visit as often as you can, okay?”
“I’ll certainly try.” Nathan looked at the remaining six donuts. “I think I’m full. How about you?”
“I’m getting there.”
“We could take the rest of these home to our parents . . .”
Denise looked betrayed. “I’ve got a better idea. How about if my big brother smuggles them up to my bedroom?”
Nathan smiled. “You’ve got a deal.”