For three years the Zest family seemed to flourish. Johnny continued his career in stand up comedy while I stayed home with our daughter. When I wasn’t taking care of Lemon, I spent my time mailing my dress sketches to fashion magazines in hopes that one of them would call me about a job. I’d also recently taken an interest in the culinary arts and was constantly scouring Pinterest for recipe ideas.
Life was going really good. Until it wasn’t anymore.
It was a night like any other. Johnny had come in late from a performance at a local dive bar and I had supper waiting for him on the stove. He changed into comfortable clothes and settled in on the couch to spend some quality time with his favorite girls…then the smoke alarm started blaring. “Oh no!” I jumped up. “I forgot to turn the oven off!” By the time I made it down the hallway, a fire had engulfed most of the kitchen. Johnny ran by me then with Lemon on his hip. “Come on, Val! There’s no time to waste!” He yelled and dragged me out of the house by the arm.
We stood in the yard and watched in horror as our small home was consumed by flames. Who would’ve thought that a kitchen fire would destroy everything we owned? “Why aren’t the neighbors coming to check on us? Where is the fire department? Why won’t someone do something?” I wailed. “At least we all made it out.” Johnny mumbled and looked down at Lemon. “I could go back in to try to find one of our phones and call for help.” He offered suddenly. “No!” I shrieked desperately and turned to him. “I can lose everything else. But not you.”
Moments later, we finally heard sirens in the distance. We already knew there wouldn’t be much they could save though. Lemon clung to my legs tightly but she didn’t cry. She seemed just as upset and confused by the whole situation as we were. “What are we going to do now?” I asked Johnny. “We could’ve gone to my mom’s apartment but she’s out of town. We all need some rest.” He bit his lip and shrugged. “You’re not going to like it…but there’s one place we can go for certain.” My eyes widened when I realized what he meant. “No, Johnny…please don’t say it.” I whispered. He sighed and gave me a sad smile. “I’m sorry, Val. But we have to go to my mother’s.”