One of Kestra's earliest memories was the night Bronco became a member of their family. He was half cocker spaniel and half terrier, a warm, wriggly bundle of energy that her father, Ian Andrew Troi, brought home from work with him late one night. One of Ian's friends' dogs had had a litter of puppies, and Ian had thought that his little girl might would like to have one.
Kestra was in bed sound asleep, and the puppy's whimpering woke her up. Excited, she bounded out of bed to meet the new addition to the family.
"Now look what you've done," Kestra's mother, Lwaxana, scolded Ian.
"I'm sorry, honey. I guess there just isn't a quiet way to bring a puppy into the house," Ian laughed.
"Now we'll never get her back to sleep," Lwaxana complained.
"Oh, Daddy, is he really ours to keep?" Kestra giggled as the puppy licked her face.
"Oh, no," Lwaxana moaned. Ian quickly noticed that the puppy had urinated all over the floor.
"Hey, nothing a mop and some Pine Sol can't get up," he said cheerfully.
"Go back to bed, Kestra," Lwaxana ordered her daughter. "There'll be plenty of time to play with the puppy in the morning."
"Aw, let her stay up just a little bit longer. This is a special night," Ian urged. Lwaxana frowned but didn't say anything.
"Can he sleep with me in my bed?" Kestra asked.
"No!" Lwaxana snapped.
"He has his own bed that he'd be more comfortable in," Ian told Kestra.
"Well, can his bed go right by my bed?"
Ian smiled. "I don't see why not."
"I'm never playing hide and seek with you again!" Brayden crossed his arms and stalked away angrily. "You always peek!"
"No I don't!" Kestra protested. "I never peek!"
"They how come you always find us right away, no matter where we hide?" Alyssa's tone was accusatory.
"I don't know! But I never peek! Honest, I don't!" Kestra was near tears.
Brayden and Alyssa were Kestra's human cousins, who were visiting from Earth with their parents, Ian's brother Roger and Roger's wife Alice.
"Hey kids, how about a game of cowboys and Indians? I'll be the horse!" Ian Troi was suddenly there.
"Yippee!" Brayden and Alyssa immediately forgot about hide and seek.
In a low voice that only she could hear, Ian confided to his daughter, "It's all right, Kestra. Don't you worry about it. I know you didn't peek."
Kestra was in the first grade in school when her baby sister Deanna was born. She remembered the day her mother brought Deanna home wrapped in a pink and white blanket with a little pink hat on her head and pink booties on her feet. Kestra had been expecting Deanna to look just like her baby dolls, so she was surprised that her baby sister actually looked quite different. Her head was pointy, her skin was wrinkled and blotchy, and her eyes looked crossed.
"She looks just like you did right after you were born," Lwaxana told her older daughter. Kestra didn't believe it.
"In about a month she'll look very different from the way she looks now," Lwaxana went on. She showed Kestra how to hold the baby, supporting her head so that it wouldn't fall back.
"She sure is floppy," Kestra remarked.
"That's why you have to be so careful when you hold her."
As the days and weeks passed, Deanna's appearance did change a lot, just as Kestra's mother had said it would. Her head became rounded, her skin became smooth, and her eyes uncrossed. She began smiling too, and Kestra decided that her baby sister was really much prettier than all her baby dolls were, after all.
One gorgeous day a few months later, the family decided to have a picnic at a nearby park. It turned out to be a day that none of them would ever forget.
In the beginning, a very pleasant outing seemed assured, with Ian and Lwaxana sitting on the quilt watching baby Deanna scoot around and Kestra romping with Bronco.
"Don't go so far away that I can't see you," Lwaxana warned Kestra, but the girl wasn't really listening. She was too busy throwing a ball for Bronco to catch.
Suddenly Bronco saw a cat and took off after it in a flash. Worried that he would get lost, Kestra tried to follow him, but he was soon out of her sight. She kept running in the direction in which she had soon him run, and soon she saw him standing at the foot of a tree and barking madly up at the cat. Soon the cat disappeared into the higher branches of the tree, and Bronco immediately lost interest and wondered away. Kestra realized that she had no idea in which direction she should go to find her parents and Deanna. She tried walking back in the direction in which she thought she had come, but she didn't see anything familiar on the way back, and she began to get frightened.
Suddenly Bronco gave a joyful yelp and began running again. Kestra saw that he was headed straight for a pond.
"No, Bronco! Don't go over there! We have to find Mommy and Daddy!" Kestra gave chase, and Bronco, thinking that it was a game, ran faster. He reached the pond and dived right in.
Kestra, not realizing that all dogs could naturally swim, feared for her pet's safety and followed him into the water. Immediately she knew that she was in trouble. Her feet didn't touch the bottom of the pond, and no matter how vigorously she kicked and thrashed, she couldn't get her head above the water's surface. She tried to scream and only gulped in water. Then everything started to go black...
Ian and Lwaxana watched Deanna scoot around on the quilt. She got her little behind up in the air a few times, but she just couldn't quite seem to be able to get up on one knee.
"Come on, Deanna, you can do it!" Lwaxana encouraged her, and then suddenly she did! Proud of herself, the baby chortled with glee.
"Ian, she's crawling!" Lwaxana shouted excitedly to her husband. Ian, who was taking drinks out of the cooler, glanced at them.
"Hey, you're right!" His face broke into a grin. "Kestra! Come see what your sister can do now!" He looked around for his older daughter, but she was nowhere to be seen. "Kestra?"
Suddenly Bronco was there, his fur soaking wet, tugging on Ian's pants leg and waiting for him to follow. Now truly alarmed, Ian followed the dog, and before long, the pond came into view.
Oh dear God no, please no...
More terrified than he had ever been in his entire life, Ian raced toward the pond as fast as his legs could carry him, and sure enough, he saw child-sized footprints leading to the edge of the water. Just beyond them floated Kestra's body, the top of her head just visible above the water's surface, hair splayed out like a fan around it. Screaming his daughter's name at the top of his lungs, Ian lunged into the water and snatched her out. Kestra was as limp as a fag doll, her eyes were closed, and her skin had a bluish tinge. Ian wrapped his arms around her from behind and pushed up on her diaphragm with both fists. A gust of water streamed out of her mouth. He repeated the action, and the second time, he heard a gagging noise. The third time, he heard a sharp intake of breath. Kestra's eyes opened and her skin slowly began to regain its natural color.
"Oh Kestra..." He held her tightly and sobbed with relief.
As soon as Kestra regained consciousness, she felt the intensity of her father's fear, and it threatened to overwhelm her. As he hugged her to himself, she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and sent him thought messages with all her might. It's all right, Daddy... please don't be afraid... I'm okay now and everything's going to be just fine. She felt his panic easing and thought that she must be getting through to him.
Holding his daughter as if he would never let her go, Ian rushed back to where Lwaxana was waiting with Deanna.
When Lwaxana saw them coming, her expression changed from curiosity to bewilderment. "What in the world happened, Ian? Why is Kestra soaking wet?"
"I...I...she...she..." Ian struggled to tell his wife what had happened but couldn't get the words out.
"I fell in the water and couldn't get out and then Daddy came and helped me. He was really scared, but I told him that everything was going to be okay."
Lwaxana sat the baby on the quilt and rose to take Kestra into her arms. You saved our little girl's life. I love you so much, Imzadi.
"Thank God I found her before it was too late." Ian had finally regained his voice.
"Can we go home now, Daddy? I want to put on some dry clothes."
"We're headed there just as fast as we can." In less that five minutes all the picnic supplies were loaded into the car and the family was on its way home.
"I wish that I could just rewind this day and start it all over again. I would have never even left the bed," Lwaxana remarked on the way home.
"We'll just have to be more careful from now on, and thank God every day that we were given a second chance," her husband told her.
"I don't want this day to ever be mentioned again by either of you," Lwaxana stated. "I want all of us to just forget that it ever happened."
"I promise, I'll never say a word about it again," Ian vowed.
I won't either, Mommy, thought Kestra.