True To Yourself

by Carole Mortenson

PART 3— During and After the Storm

Go to Part 1


"Come on, Jess, something's happening up by the waterfall. Let's go up and see what's going on," Andy urged her friend, after she had determined where the call for help was coming from.

However, Jess was adamant about not going and refused to budge. "Okay," Andy said. "Suit yourself. But I'm not staying here with you." She grabbed her coffee and got up from the table and left Jess looking dejectedly into her coffee cup.

Andy was on the outer fringe of onlookers gathering around an elderly woman who had collapsed by the waterfall on the second level of the Food Court . Four people from the fire department in their dark blue uniforms had come into the mall, defying the raging snowstorm outside. Each carried vital life support equipment and all were kneeling by the woman.

Andy crowded in closer, as much as the Citadel Security guards would allow. She sipped her coffee while catching glimpses of the paramedic as he worked over the woman who was lying prone on the cold marble floor. Then she managed to squeeze her way through the crowd of people—ignoring veiled protests—until she found herself positioned right up in front.

She was thrilled at the way the paramedic efficiently administered help to the elderly woman, giving her the proper medication through IVs, hooking her up to the heart-monitoring equipment and doing what he had been trained to do: save a life.

Jess doesn't know what she's missing, Andy thought . I don't know why she didn't want to come with me and watch. She's so wimpy sometimes!

The other three men gathered around the paramedic for support and assistance as the crowd of people watched the Colorado Springs Fire Department at work. One person monitored blood pressure and another oxygen. The third lent a hand where needed. Hopefully, the ambulance would be here soon to transport the woman to the hospital. A fire engine was always called in on an emergency, and an ambulance was notified at the same time—or vice-versa. If an ambulance couldn't make it, they would call for one of the three Fire Department Rescue Squad trucks located around the city.

Someone from the crowd of people had produced a blanket, and the woman was placed on that. It was the gentleness of the paramedic who totally captured Andy's attention, as he carefully helped to maneuver the woman into a more comfortable position on the blanket, folding one end of it into a makeshift pillow. He glanced up for a moment, to check his bearings in relation to their position in the mall and took off his winter woolen hat as he did so. As he turned and his eyes brushed across Andy's face, the man's hair cascaded down around his shoulders. It was dark-blonde, thick and curly, and longer than shoulder-length.

Andy caught her breath. A thrilling sense of excitement coursed through her as she saw that the paramedic wasn't a man at all, but a strong, well-built woman, with determination set in her features as she continued to survey her present surroundings. Andy could not tear her eyes away.

As the paramedic looked around, she stood up to her full height of almost six feet. Andy marveled! She noted the name ‘Jordan MacKenzie, Paramedic' on the identification badge pinned to her uniform under her heavy winter coat. She thought how much the name suited her, and wondered if Jordan or MacKenzie was her first name. She remembered that MacKenzie was the first name of a popular female soap opera star on a daytime TV show.

When the paramedic turned back around, her eyes stopped and focused on Andy, as if seeing her for the first time. Andy self-consciously began to melt from the inside out, as heat rose to her face and warmth spread downward through her whole body. She was powerless to lower her gaze as this woman with her penetrating light-blue eyes stared intently at her without saying a word.

Andy had previously removed the lid from her coffee cup, reiterating to Jess, "How can anyone drink coffee out of that little hole in the lid?" And now her hand began to shake, tipping the cup, and some of the coffee sloshed over the rim onto the floor at her feet. She abruptly looked down at the floor and then back up to meet the paramedic's eyes again. Oh God, she thought, why did I have to go and do that?

The paramedic looked down at Andy's feet, wrinkled her raised eyebrows and looked at her again. She shook her head, smiling briefly, and then returned to caring for the elderly woman on the floor. Without turning back around, she tossed a paper towel toward Andy's feet. Andy hastily picked it up and used it to wipe up the spilled coffee.

Andy thought, bending over to her task, Oh, my God, what just happened? I have never felt like this from a woman's gaze in my whole life! And it was so stupid of me to spill my coffee like that. And then she laughed at me! Oh, God, what must she be thinking—?

* * * * * *

Jordan MacKenzie could feel a flush spreading over her face as she turned and knelt down by the elderly woman. She knew she was blushing. Transcending the adrenalin pumping through her because of her work was the feeling of another excitement surfacing in her body. After she had thrown the paper towel at the stranger's feet, she wanted desperately to turn around at the woman who had just spilt her coffee and gaze into those beautiful dark-brown eyes again. But she didn't dare.

There had been a momentary, but defining and inexplicable connection between them as their eyes met. Jordan wondered how this could have happened. She was horrified that Ellie had betrayed her just last night, and now another woman had entered her life unexpectedly, and she just about lost it!

This is impossible, she thought. I haven't even dealt with Ellie yet, and this stranger steps up and blows me away! This is impossible, she repeated to herself—

"Hey, Brad. When is the ambulance going to get here?" She spoke to the driver of the fire engine, the chesty resonance of her voice rising above the sound of the waterfall. She was desperately seeking to disentangle herself from the disturbing thoughts she was having. All the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) wore communication devices, but Jordan had not been listening closely to hers.

"They had to turn back," Brad replied. "The snow is too deep. And the whole damn town is shut down because of the storm. I have a call out to one of our Rescue Squad trucks, but I don't know if they'll be able to get here, either. All we can do is wait."

"Well, this lady is stable for now," Jordan offered. "I wish we had something to cover her with."

The fire engine did not carry blankets. It was up to the ambulance to supply them when they arrived at an emergency scene. What was called "the cootie factor" came into play, as contamination from anything was always possible—from blood especially, if it occurred around an accident. The 'cootie factor' applied to their uniforms, too. No one wore their uniforms home, but changed in and out of them at work. They had a washing machine at the firehouse where they did their laundry.

Jordan started to take her winter coat off to cover the woman when—miraculously—someone from the crowd produced a space blanket! It was made of a type of material that was designed to keep heat from escaping from a person's body—in order to prevent hypothermia. Jordan spread the thin, shiny blanket over the women, who would retain her body heat for quite a while now. There would be fewer complications when she finally got to the hospital.

Jordan glanced around her briefly. The female stranger had left.

* * * * * *

Andy's feet couldn't move fast enough. She flew down the small flight of stairs and arrived breathless at the table where Jess was sitting.

Jess looked at her questioningly. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Nothing!" Andy blurted out abruptly, louder than she intended. She sat down hard in her chair, overturning onto the table what little bit of coffee she had left in her cup. "Damn!" she said under her breath, and reached for a napkin to sop up the spill. She certainly didn't want to tell Jessica what had just happened!

"Well, there must be something wrong. You just yelled at me."

"I'm sorry, Jess. It's just that poor woman up there lying on the cold hard floor—she looked so helpless, and this paramedic was trying to help her, and—" Andy's voice trailed off. With finality, she managed, "I guess it just got to me."

It certainly did get to me, she thought to herself. That beautiful 'rescuer from heaven' was what got to me! God, I can't believe what just happened. I thought that kind of attraction was over, after what happened recently. I have no right to feel that way. I can't feel that way again. I'm a married woman!

"You had no business going up there, anyway." Jess was carrying on, unconcerned that Andy was probably not listening to her. "You know they don't like crowds around when they're trying to help someone. People just get in their way. That's why I stayed down here. You'd have been better off staying here, too. Don't you think so, Andy Lee?"

Andy was somewhat mollified when she answered. "Yes, I guess you're right, Jess." She had caught Jess's last question, but acted as if she heard every word Jess had said.

Jessica's face lit up suddenly. "Andy Lee, why don't we go up to Taco Bell and get something to eat? It's almost two o'clock, and I'm starving . I think I'd like a stuffed burrito or some kind of Mexican food. I'm not picky. What do you say?"

Andy realized she hadn't eaten a thing all day long except for a bite of Jessica's muffin several hours ago. "Yeah," she said. "Sounds good to me. I think it's safe to leave our table. It looks as if there are plenty of empty tables around, and we'll leave our jackets. If someone wants to sit here, though—in spite of the jackets—we can always sit somewhere else. Come on, let's go."

Andy glanced around as they got up. She thought they should take the stairs on the other side of the waterfall to the upper level, however, and go around the emergency scene. She didn't think she could handle another unsettling glance at that paramedic right now. She hoped the ambulance would come soon and the paramedic and the other fire department fellows would leave so she could deal with her thoughts in a more rational manner, rather than the confusion that had taken over.



Andy and Jessica came back with their meals. Even though they'd left their jackets at their table as a deterrent, it had been taken over by four other people. Their coats had been thrown on the next table. Andy was a little put out. But rather than causing any trouble—since there were plenty of vacant tables around—she gave those new occupants a sarcastic look as she picked up their coats. She and Jess wandered over to a different table. Andy guessed those people must have really wanted to sit next to the elevator! From their new table, though, the upper level where the Fire Department people were working was still in view.

They settled in and began to thoroughly enjoy their meal. "Jessica, I think this is the best stuffed burrito I've ever eaten!" Andy exclaimed.

"You're just saying that because you're hungry," Jess replied. "Most anything tastes the best when you're hungry." She chuckled.

"No, actually it's the best I've ever eaten because it's free!" Andy said with a flourish. They both laughed.

Andy noted with surprise that her headache was gone. The reason she developed one may have been because she was hungry and not because of Ken or Jessica or the tenseness of the moment. But then she remembered that the intense pounding had mysteriously disappeared entirely when she encountered Jordan MacKenzie! She just hadn't noticed it was gone until now.

They finished their meal and relaxed in the aftermath of full stomachs. Andy looked around and noticed no additional people were trickling in from the different wings of the mall. All the stores were undoubtedly closed by now. The employees who worked in them were included in the hundred or so people that were sitting around in the Food Court . There were also people whom the Citadel Security guards had let in from the outside, and they were gratefully huddling together with the rest of those who were in lockdown. Andy knew that over 400 people could be accommodated in seating here. She had counted all the chairs once, just for the heck of it—including the seats in the Ruby Tuesday restaurant. The hundred people here now—give or take a few—were a good number, as it wouldn't be overcrowded.

The mall staff and employees at the Food Court were wonderful, going out of their way to make sure people were comfortable by handing out free food and drinks—which was no small undertaking. Andy had heard of people banding together in a common effort when disasters occurred. She remembered the Security guard's words: "We're all in this is together." All in what together, she wondered for the second time. It's just a snowstorm. Even though there was a lot more snow than she remembered from years ago.

Andy started thinking about the storm again. Anything to keep her mind from dwelling on that fascinating woman paramedic! She sat at their new table with her back to the scene taking place on the next level to avoid searching out a glimpse of the paramedic.

The snow coming from the northwest and 'training' was what puzzled her. That's not Colorado , she remembered from past snowfalls. Something's wrong here.

The music coming from the PA system in the mall was beating out one of her favorite songs:

I've been everywhere, man

I've been everywhere, man

Crossed the desert fair, man

I've breathed the mountain air, man

Of travel I've had my share, man

I've been everywhere.

Then her favorite part started, where the singer rattled off like an auctioneer all the places he'd traveled to. Among the towns he named, one suddenly stood out blaringly to her: ALBUQUERQUE .

"Jessica! I know what's happening with the weather!" Andy said excitedly.

"What are you talking about?" Jess asked. "It's a snowstorm. That's what's happening." She had not shared Andy's enthusiasm for the music. The singer was tossing out the names of places he'd traveled to so rapidly that she couldn't understand him.

"No, you don't understand. This is not an Albuquerque Low !" Andy acted like she had discovered something important. "Don't you get it, Jess?"

"Get what?" Jess said. "You're the weather expert. What are you talking about, Andy Lee?"

"It's really very simple when you think about it. I was looking for something complicated, and it's not that way at all. Think Jess. When do we have our heaviest snowfalls here?" Andy was on the edge of her seat with excitement.

"Well, Andy Lee, we barely have snow anymore. This is the most snow I've ever seen," Jess said, forgetting the blizzard of fourteen years ago. "How would I know?"

Andy went on to explain. "Jess, don't you remember? We get our heaviest snow when we have a low pressure area centered over Albuquerque , New Mexico . Weather people refer to it as an Albuquerque Low . We get a counterclockwise circulation, which brings moist winds in from the southeast—what they call upslope conditions. When that happens, the weather is blocked by the mountains and can't get over them. So when this happens in the wintertime, the snow is dumped on us here, south of the Palmer Divide, which is between here and Denver . Whether we get a little or a lot of snow depends on how long the Albuquerque Low stays in position and how fast it moves out of the area. The last time I checked the conditions”— which has been a while , she remembered—“we don't have that low in place."

"Well, if we don't have an Albuquerque Low , Andy Lee, then why are we having so much snow now ?" Jess asked, honestly wondering. She was trying hard to understand, for Andy's sake.

"When bad weather comes down from a front up north, Jess, Denver gets the snow—not Colorado Springs . Denver could have a foot of snow, and we might not have any here at all—or very little at best. That is, that's how it used to be years ago when we'd have snow," she added wryly. "Monument Ridge—or the Palmer Divide—would block storms from coming this far south, because it's so much higher in altitude than here."

Andy stopped for a moment to gather up her thoughts. "This snowfall is not normal," she said. "Ken told me he'd heard on the Weather Channel that it is worse farther north, where they're measuring snow depth in feet now, instead of inches. And they say it's not letting up anytime soon."

She paused again, and her eyes widened considerably. "Jess, if we have three feet of snow here , can you imagine what it's like in Denver ?" she said alarmingly.

"!" she then exclaimed, using her favorite expression.

"What is it, Andy Lee?" Jess asked, anxiety in her voice.

"Jess, I think we're caught up in a... superstorm !" She became silent.

* * * * * *

"Andy Lee...Andy Lee—" Jess whispered, shaking her friend's shoulder.

"What now, Jess?" Andy said, annoyed at being startled.

God, doesn't this woman ever shut up? She had been listening to her own thought processes and disliked being interrupted while she was trying to formulate what she was going to say next. She was trying to find the right words to firm up her previous statement about the snowstorm being a superstorm .

"One of those firemen is coming over here," Jess said, still whispering, looking behind Andy out of the corners of her eyes.

"What?" Andy stopped thinking.

"A fireman is coming over to our table. Look! Turn around," Jess muttered between her clenched teeth. , Andy thought. Could it be....? Her heart started beating wildly. She turned in her seat.

"Excuse me, ma'am. My partner thought you might have dropped this.” The young man who was speaking reached out his hand. He was holding her silver OHM bracelet.

"Oh. Yes. Thank you," Andy said, hoping her disappointment was not reflected in her voice. "The clasp comes open all the time. My husband keep saying he'll fix it, but—" Her voice trailed off.

She looked up into the young man's face as she took the bracelet from him. "Your partner?"

"Yes, ma'am. The paramedic. She pointed you out to me, but couldn't bring it to you herself because she had to stay with the old woman up there."

"Would you mind thanking her for me...Robert?" Andy said, noticing the name 'Robert Hutchens, Firefighter,' on his identification badge.

"Sure thing," he responded.

The young man turned and retraced his steps, bounding up the stairs to the second level while Andy watched him. To her surprise and delight, she saw Jordan standing at the top of the steps, raising a hand and smiling at her in recognition. Andy returned the greeting and was sure her own face was blushing as she smiled. Jordan turned and went back out of sight.

"Who was that ?" Jess asked, her eyes wide in anticipation of Andy's answer.

"Just the paramedic," Andy said as nonchalantly as she could.

"She acted like she knew you."

"Not really." I wish she did....I wish I did....I wish we did....God in heaven, what is wrong with me?

They heard a commotion from the second level and saw heads bobbing up and down and moving around.

"I guess an ambulance has come," Andy said, generating little enthusiasm. She was happy for the elderly woman. At first, she had wished the Fire Department would leave so she could gather her confused thoughts. Now she was sad because the woman paramedic would be leaving. She didn't want her to go. But she had no idea what to do if the woman stayed.

A gurney came into sight and in just a few minutes the woman was lifted onto it and covered up securely and strapped in, still hooked to her vital life support system. Then they wheeled her out—not to an ambulance, but to a waiting Rescue Squad truck. The paramedic, along with the others from the CSFD soon left, too, and Andy watched a bobbing head of thick dark-blonde hair as Jordan reached up and placed a woolen hat on her head.

I'll never forget you, Andy thought, wishing that somehow the energy she radiated outwardly from her mind might reach and be received by Jordan .

* * * * * *

Jordan MacKenzie climbed reluctantly back into the fire engine. Her headache had dissipated somewhat, leaving a kind of dullness. And although the pain of Ellie's betrayal was still there, she had a mind that was crystal clear with a sense of newness in life. She wished she had been able to stay at the mall for a while and try to explore that newness. She didn't even know the woman's name. But she knew she was into yoga. Jordan had picked up the woman's OHM bracelet she dropped and put it in her shirt pocket over her heart. She kept it there for a long while before giving it to Robert to return to the woman. She wanted to keep it, to take away something from that moment of contact. But she didn't.

Suddenly her eyes sparkled, and a smile came over her face. I'll never forget you, either , she thought, embracing the energy and engrossed in thoughts about the stranger. Her memories of their unforgettable meeting continued for several hours while they went on a few more rescue missions after returning to the firehouse.



When this storm is over, maybe people will start listening, Andy thought. And do something to change the climate's direction for the better. It should be a wake-up call to everyone. But it's probably too late now—

Andy was as sure as she was sitting here drinking coffee with Jessica that life as they knew it was soon going to come to an end. This storm was only the beginning, and it was already a violent beginning. Andy thought back to what she had learned over years of studying the history of world climate and global warming.

* * * * * *

In the middle of the twentieth century, there were no sophisticated instruments to forecast the weather, no satellites, virtually no deep-ocean probes or study of the atmosphere and wind circulations. There were barely any measurements of atmospheric pollutants—carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. There was no understanding of the ocean currents like the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt.

There were no computer models in the 1950s capable of simulating what the climate had been like in the past or what it was going to be like in the future. There weren't even any computers! What was considered to be the first computer—a monstrous piece of equipment that occupied a whole room—was not developed until around 1960. So there was virtually no understanding of global warming and its consequences. It was only in the last twenty to twenty-five years that the term global warming became a household phrase.

Global warming was more often a matter of politics versus scientific and verifiable evidence—coal and gas conglomerates versus the scientific community. Personal interests that involved finances came first. Global warming was shown to be accelerating because of human activity around the world, but basically nothing was being done to slow it. The United States was still the greatest contributor to the problem, even though third-world countries' reliance on oil and coal was shortening the gap.

Andy remembered reading not long ago about samples from the world's deepest ice cores in ancient Antarctic ice which revealed the levels of carbon dioxide—the main gas responsible for global warming. Analysis of the CO 2 trapped in tiny bubbles in the ice showed that at no point in the past 650,000 years did levels get anywhere close to today's 27 percent higher concentration. And greenhouse-gas levels began to rise during the coal-burning Industrial Revolution until it surged recently as more countries became industrialized.

But this did not mean the whole planet would warm up as many people believed and then become uninhabitable for human life because it was too hot. It meant just the opposite. It could soon be the beginning of a new Ice Age.

What was called the Little Ice Age had occurred from 1150 to 1460 a.d. in Western Europe , and then was more prolonged and widespread from 1560 to 1850 a.d. What most people who were not climatologists didn't know was that the earth was still in an Ice Age, and was hovering right at the edge waiting for that sudden, abrupt climate change that would slip it back into a major Ice Age.

The problem was in trying to determine when feedbacks from current climate models were on the tipping point, where one weather mode would slip into another. Until now, there had been many abortive responses between weather modes, and climatologists knew that what they needed to do with climate was to keep it firmly in the warm-and-wet mode and not let it come anywhere close to the transition zone that could kick the world back into another Ice Age.

Present abortive responses, which were indicated by extreme weather events, were the inevitable consequences of global warming. These extremes included stronger storms, methane gas releases, habitat changes, stronger El Niño's, and killer heat waves. The permafrost melting and trees moving further north in the northern hemisphere because the climate was too warm in the south were further indications of global warming. Prolonged droughts in the U.S. Midwest, Australia and elsewhere, and torrential downpours in places where they had never occurred before were other extreme weather events. The melting of glaciers, now beginning to be really understood, was also an indication of global warming—along with the continued thinning of the Arctic ice, the threat of rising oceans, and sinking landmasses. The impact of all this would have on the environment and world economies was shown to be dramatic and catastrophic.

And now there was one more thing added to the mix to complicate matters: abrupt, catastrophic coolings.

* * * * * *

Suddenly it dawned on Andy that in spite of all her studies, she had not been watching the climate and weather signals as closely as she should have. She had noticed the low pressure system building to the north, far up in the Arctic and coming down through Canada . She remembered there was no Albuquerque Low indicated. But her mind had been dwelling on other things too much: Ken and his incessant possessive and childish behavior, the disturbing changes in her sexual urgings, and most recently the Christmas holidays. She forgot to think about important 'feedbacks.' So she failed to see the signs building up to the abrupt climate change that was coming.

Andy knew that this storm was not the global superstorm yet, which would ultimately catapult the world back into a new Ice Age, but it was a WARNING . This present snowstorm was an extreme weather event for the nation.

But Andy knew that extremes in weather were only one factor leading to a global superstorm. She prodded her memory, and the horrifying reality loomed before her as she remembered anew what she had learned in her studies.

* * * * * *

The best-understood candidate that could initiate a global superstorm was the Great Ocean Current. As fresh water from the melting ice sheet of the Arctic flowed into the North Atlantic , there would be a failure to flush the cooled-down water from the ocean's surface, thus virtually shutting down this immense current circulating around the globe that was so necessary for a stabilizing worldwide climate. The Arctic ice was melting fast, already causing the 'conveyor belt' to slow down dramatically. Studies Andy had read about recently had announced that they had proof that there was a slowing of the Gulf Stream , and it was happening dramatically quicker than they had predicted. A conference on how to stabilize the North Atlantic Current ought to be high on the agenda of international entities and be in full swing by now. But, as yet, many years into the twenty-first century, feet were still dragging on almost everything that would slow global warming and thus avert a worldwide catastrophic superstorm.

'Going green'—the movement that started several years ago—was met with minimal success. But no one really knew to what extent global warming would have on the earth's climate, and no one gave a serious thought to a drastic cooling of the planet.

None of the random combinations of weather that set up scenarios such as droughts and drenching rains and freak snowstorms were likely to delay the threshold-crossing year. They were only likely to shorten the time remaining until a slippery slope was reached when the climate would slip into another full-blown Ice Age. It was like trying to estimate the time until a pan under the faucet would overflow when the water was left running. And it would make a lot of difference if there were potatoes in the pan bouncing around. The potatoes would never delay the time until the pan overflowed. They would only make it happen sooner. And instead of talking in thousands of years for a climate flip-flop to occur, as in the past due to natural causes, it would likely happen in the span of only a decade , or less . Because of the way human beings have used the planet without taking care of it, it would no longer be a gradual transition into another Ice Age. It would be abrupt and devastating, and not pretty at all.

The facts were in and were abundantly verified concerning global warming, and no matter how much climatologists continued to try and convince the world of what would happen, they had no way of stopping the inevitable now. They could only sit back and watch it unfold, powerless against nature. But most of the world wasn't taking it seriously.

* * * * * *

"It's unreal!" Andy told Jess. She was trying to explain all of this to her friend, but Jess was looking at her in a blank state of awe, not really comprehending. She looked at Andy with admiration and let her ears be the sounding board for Andy's words.

"Of course, these things about another Ice Age are only theories, aren't they, Andy Lee?" she queried. "They aren't actual fact , are they?" She thought she at least understood the difference between a fact and a theory.

It's hard for ordinary people to understand global warming, Andy was thinking. She assured Jess that most people thought they were theories, but she felt no need to tell her they were becoming fact fast!

People everywhere are so wrapped up in their ordinary lives, their jobs, their personal problems. They never take the time to survey this big planet Earth they live on, which is much bigger than their postage-stamp property with their postage-stamp house on it. The size of the property and the house don't matter in the long run. And there is much more at stake than their individual lives. They cannot comprehend that the world as they know it will soon be coming to an end. And when something like this extreme storm occurs, they fall apart. Just like Jess.

Andy turned to look at her friend. She had never seen her in such a state of extreme anxiety before. She glanced down at her watch. Five o'clock. She looked up at the huge skylight in the center of the Food Court and noted it was beginning to grow dark outside. The snow had whistled across the roof on the streams of the fierce wind and failed to deposit the several feet of snow on the rooftop that she was certain had been dumped in the parking lot where they'd parked their cars. They had watched the storm through the skylight. She wondered how much longer they would have to stay in the mall.

As if to answer her unspoken question, the mall loudspeakers came to life.

Ladies and gentlemen. This is the manager. We have just received word that the storm that has hit this area so hard, including us in Colorado Springs , is slowly moving east. The snow is letting up, and this snowstorm will be history by morning!

There were cheers and applause as people rallied to the good news. Jessica's face brightened, and even Andy felt her tired mind coming back to life with the prospect that this wasn't the end of the known civilization—yet. The loudspeakers continued.

The city is making every effort to get the snowplows going and try to clear the snow-packed roads. Lockdown is still in place here until help arrives, hopefully by tomorrow sometime. It is virtually impossible to get out of the parking lots with your cars until that happens. The storm has left more than four feet of snow on the ground and drifts upwards of 15 feet. So try to get as comfortable as possible, as you will be spending the night here.

There was an air of levity now as people began to intermingle and talk about what was happening. They knew they would soon be able to leave. They would go to their homes and life would continue as it did before the storm, and they would be talking about it for a long time afterward. Maybe a few people would be a little wiser, but Andy knew most wouldn't be. Life would go on as usual—until the next extreme storm, the next one and the next one. The coming global superstorm would always be hovering, ready to finally tip over the edge, and life on earth would be changed forever.

"Jess, I'm going to call Ken and let him know the good news. And yes, I'll ask him to call Bob. Be right back."

Andy walked to the phone by the USA Bank again, thankful there was no one else in line. She slipped a quarter into the coin slot and rang her phone number. There was no answer. She tried again, letting it ring a full minute this time.

"There's no answer," she told Jess when she got back to their table and then conveyed her worry about Ken. "Jess, I don't need any more piled on my plate right now. I have enough to deal with as it is!"

It was Jess's turn to be sympathetic and consoling. "Wait just a little bit and try calling again," she said. "Do you want me to try and call Bob?"

Jess knew Bob would be angry with her, even though he knew she couldn't get out of the mall. It wasn't her fault. But it wasn't like Andy Lee to be like she was, either. Andy Lee usually kept a cool head about her. What in the world is upsetting her? Jess thought. What is she talking about when she says she has enough to deal with?

Andy thought she shouldn't have said anything to Jess. What would Jess think if she knew that the paramedic from the fire department had her completely disoriented? And that she felt an attraction to that woman like she'd never felt attracted to a man! Yes, she did have enough to deal with without worrying where Ken was.

"No, that's all right. I'll call again later. Let's go get some dinner, okay?" Andy stood up, pulling Jess up with her. "I hope the meals are still free," she said valiantly.

She got through to Ken after another hour. He'd been up on the roof shoveling snow. She told him they'd have to be spending the night in the mall until the snowplows could dig them out sometime tomorrow. He was relieved and told her the weather people were surprised that the storm moved out of the area so quickly, and Colorado had just caught the southern edge of it. He also told her his boss had called and cancelled the Christmas party because of the uncertain future.

"Would you call Bob again?" Andy asked. She would go into details of the storm when she got home. Right now she just wanted to be by herself, buried in her own thoughts, and Jess was fairly easy to ignore once she got going on one of her never-ending sagas of life. Unlike Ken, who would keep pelting her with question after question.

I'm glad Ken has calmed down, she thought. Maybe shoveling the snow has taken some of the anger out of him....But I can't even imagine what the country is like north of here, if Colorado Springs just caught the southern edge of the storm!

The night passed uneventfully, and so did the remains of the storm. Andy woke up to sunshine glaring through the skylight. The wind was calm. The calm after the storm , she thought. She and Jess had taken catnaps slumped in their chairs during the night, while other people had spread coats—and blankets provided by a couple of stores—on chairs and the floor. Some even slept in Santa's 'castle,' with a home-like roof over their heads.

Those who had been locked down in the mall were calling the superstorm just a freak storm that came out of nowhere, dumped a few feet of snow and then disappeared back into nowhere. They had no idea what was going on. But Andy knew. She realized there would be no end in sight of the storms to come—storms which were already gaining in magnitude and lurking on the horizon.

The cleanup after the snow would be enormous—and who knew yet how many lives were lost? But everyone was safe who had been forced to stay in the mall. And the lady who had suffered a heart attack earlier? Andy hoped she was okay now.

Thinking about the elderly woman, it was only natural that her mind would then wander to Jordan MacKenzie. She was determined to take up her yoga class again with renewed energy, anxious to explore this new side of herself that Jordan had suddenly reawakened in her. Not too long ago, her emerging new self had unexpectedly been put on hold because of a disastrous encounter with her yoga teacher. She didn't want to think about that now, and had no idea where the future would lead her after what happened yesterday. But she felt certain that she never would have known who she was, or who she thought she was, if it hadn't been for Jordan MacKenzie.

As she drank her morning coffee, she absent-mindedly put her hand on her OHM bracelet and rubbed the little symbol depicting the original sound from which the universe was created—the sound of all sounds together. She wondered if she would ever see Jordan MacKenzie again.

To be continued...

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