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They talked several hours through the night and quickly packed their bags to leave for town in the morning. Two of the newer men were heading out for California and so they had arranged to be dropped off in town by them. Sam didn’t really know them all that well but they seemed like alright guys. On the way to town they stopped at a gas station and the two men went inside, leaving Sam and Julie alone in the backseat.

“I don’t know what I am going to do without you, Sam.” Julie said emotionally.

“Don’t worry about it Julie, the Universe will provide you with what you need. All things have their purpose and even the bad times help us to become stronger individuals. Each morning as you start your day, take a good look at yourself. The scars that life has given you are the foundations of your future. Don’t run from them… build on them. They are you, and if…”

“What was that?” Julie shouted, at the sound of a gunshot. Two more shots fired as the two men came running for the car. One of them was bleeding. 

“How the hell was I to know he had a gun?” the driver shouted to his partner as they jumped into the car. 

“Just get us out of here!” the other man shouted, while trying to stop the bleeding from his arm. 

The car spun out and for a few minutes it looked as if they had gotten away with the robbery… but suddenly a police car pulled out from a speed trap and the chase was on. A bullet ripped through the back window and Sam covered Julie with her body. Several more shots entered the car, one grazing the neck of Julie. It wasn’t painful but she could feel the blood pouring down her blouse and tried to reach her hand up to stop it. 

“Just stay down!” Sam shouted as the chase continued. 

There was a sudden POP as one of the tires was hit by a bullet and the car careened of the road and into a ditch. They were immediately surrounded by police with guns drawn. The two men stepped out of the car and surrendered immediately while Sam continued protecting Julie. “You okay, kid?” she finally asked as she started to sit up. 

“Yes, I think so.” Julie responded, finally reaching for her neck. “It’s just a surface wound I think… but look how much blood I lost.” 

“Well stupid… that could be because it’s not all of your blood.” Sam responded jokingly, while holding her hand to the large wound in her chest. “Looks like this is where our journeys part my friend.” she added, as her eyes slowly closed and her arms fell lifeless to her side. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The judge was sympathetic and believed Julie was not really guilty of any crime other then being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still she was a minor in the company of some bad people and so he sentenced her to be held in juvenile detention until her 18th Birthday. For Julie it didn’t make any difference… since she had lost all reason to continue with life.

At the request of a social worker, who was concerned for Julie’s mental state, her father did pay her a short visit and brought her some of the things from her room that he thought she could use. It wasn’t much and most of the things he brought were things that may once have been her treasures… but now seemed so meaningless. She thanked him for coming and when she returned to her room, threw the box of belongings on her nightstand. 

“Mind if I look through your stuff?” her roommate Wendy asked, as she picked up the box. 

“No, go ahead and look… but I doubt you will find much of interest.” 

Wendy read a few of the letters, looked at some old report cards, checked out some of the pictures, and then picked up an old notebook and started paging through it. “Hey, what’s this old leaf doing in your notebook Julie?” she asked, as she carefully pulled it from between the pages.  

Julie looked up and when she saw the leaf, a flood of memories were released. Good memories of her mother and father, of the dreams she had, and the promise she made herself back then, ‘that no matter what happened to her, she would always be mindful of the disadvantaged.’ She walked over and took the leaf from Wendy and carefully examined it again as she had done the first time. It was much dryer now but the story of its life was still clearly visible and the aging had made it even more beautiful. That thought brought back some of the last words Sam had spoken to her, ‘The scars that life has given you are the foundations of your future. Don’t run from them… build on them.’ 

Wendy continued to look through Julie’s things for something of interest but for Julie there was no more need to look any further… For she had found the Dream that she had lost the day her mother died and that was all she needed. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

In the months and years that followed Julie built on her experiences and learned to love herself again. From GED to University and on to Medical School she overcame the odds and graduated with honors. She started her internship working the Emergency Room of a large Metropolitan Hospital where she met and fell in love with one of her Supervisors. 

Dr. Matthew Richardson III was the son of a Senator and had grown up in an overly protected environment controlled by his mother. She had decided that he would be a Doctor on the day he was born and he never questioned her decision. He was a good Doctor but he often wished he could get out from under his mother’s control.

The first day he met Julie, he was hooked. Something about her made her different from any other girl he had ever known before. She was very knowledgeable in medicine but would never challenge him on a diagnosis head on. Instead she would leave hints or suggestions that would make him change his diagnosis to the right one. She could also talk the talk of her patients when ever she had to and could put any man in his place, even if he was drunk. She was tough and yet compassionate, rugged in appearance and yet beautiful in the way she carried herself. She was everything he wanted in a woman and after six months of casual dating he proposed to her with a large diamond ring. 

“Oh Matthew, It’s beautiful… but I don’t know what to say?” 

“Just say you will marry me Julie, that’s all.”

“But Matthew… there are things you don’t know about me and you need to know them before I can answer you.”

“I don’t care what they are, Julie, I love you for what you are today. Not for what you were yesterday.”

“Look at these scars Matthew,” she said, while showing him her wrist and neck, “and look at this tattoo on my arm. Do you think your parents or your friends could accept me as I am?”

“Those are nothing, Julie; I know a good plastic surgeon that could clean all of that up for you and make you look really beautiful.” 

“But they are me, Matthew. These scars are what has given me the strength to come this far.” 

“And now you have made it, Doctor Julie and it is time to start a new life. I am sure that your friends from the past would want that for you.” 

“And your parents, Matthew?”

“They don’t have to know your past; we can tell them anything… Look Julie, up until now everything in my life has been purchased… but you make me feel like a real person, and I don’t want to lose you.” 

“I need some time, Matthew… it is not that I don’t love you, I love you more than any… boy I have ever known before,” she said, as she handed the ring back to him, “but there are things from my past that I need to clear up before I can give you my answer.” 

“When Julie? Your internship with me is over now and you will be moving on to a new department, I don’t want to lose you to someone else.” 

“I will go to see my father this weekend, Matthew… and I will give you my answer when I return.”

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