Posted in Short Story

A Little Hope

Train

I tried. Not once. Not twice. More than I am capable of counting really. Why? Hope. The promise of hope. I thought I had it, and maybe I do, but I don’t have hope in you. Maybe I lost hope when I started thinking about it, what it should be, or where it wasn’t. My investigation – my thinking – made me wonder who or what was to blame for losing it. I am alone, so there is only one person to point the finger to, but I can’t even do that, even if I hate you most.

The mirror laughs now at the ugliness of a reflection. The torment never goes away. This person who stole my life, and wears this clueless look on her face at all times, is always there. Her eyes – they are dark now and cynical. Her brown hair is as lifeless as her eyes. Weight loss only highlights the negatives as age and time are no longer covered. So, I cover the mirror with a towel just to make her go away. It’s the only way she exists you know. This ghostly shell of a person roaming around the living. Well – Not in my house! I tried, remember? She just wouldn’t learn so banishing her is the only way. Occasionally a reflection in a window gives me a glimpse of her, but I am quick to look away. I refuse to give her life elsewhere. Be gone! Please be gone.


“Hope? Are you okay?” A voice jolts me back to reality.

“Sssory Grace. My mind was blank for a moment. I am having one of those days I guess.” I tried to laugh off my embarrassment while feeling annoyed she was there.

“No worries! We all have those days” she offered while holding open the library door. I found her smile and niceness irritating.

Grace was always graceful. Annoyingly graceful. She never left anyone the fool even when a fool was needed for the story. She was nice to everybody. It’s hard to feel special that way. I guess it beats being the one person she isn’t graceful to. Her bright red hair, naturally rosy cheeks, bright blue eyes and bubbly personality prove life can be inside a person. Can I have an ounce of your grace please? Surely that would make me a more tolerant person.

I left Grace and started looking around in the library. The building was beautiful from floor to ceiling, but the bookshelves had seen better days. The shelves used to be full of books, but now space was more obvious. Are we forgetting to read books you can hold now? You lose half the experience reading stories on a screen. Newspapers and new books will eventually be reduced to candle scents for us to have the smells at all. Somehow vanilla and lavender are the top candle scents to buy, but like anything else, it will change – eventually.


Destiny was watching me as I looked for a book to read. Her eyes were sure and unforgiving. She didn’t break her stare when you looked back at her either. She wanted you to know she was watching you. But why? Its irritating.

Distracted by Destiny I didn’t realize I had moved to a section of books I would never read. They were all business and self-help books. These are the books that belong on a screen! No need to own or hold one of these guys. Rolling my eyes I looked up only to find Destiny was no longer watching me. I guess she doesn’t like these books either. Only me. Lucky me.

Looking back at the shelf my eyes found a small book titled “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. M.D. I guess the good doctor wrote something too long for an article, and too short for a real-sized book, so he stuffed in a child-sized book instead. Curiosity, and not wanting to change aisles only to find Destiny watching me, made choosing to read the book my only option. I found it funny that it was much easier to find a chair to sit and read in this section. Go figure!

Well, it started with 2 mice and 2 little people with the names of Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw who were searching for cheese. Seriously! I don’t understand how is this book not in the children’s section? It was a short read but long too because it made me think about things I didn’t want to think about. One page said “When you stop being afraid, you feel good!” It made me think about covering the mirror with a towel to keep “her” away. I didn’t think I feared her. Now I am wondering if I do.

“Sometimes losing something to change means also gaining something better from change.” Okay – this line is absolute crap and clearly makes this book belong in the fairytale section. I lost my parents when I was 17. That was a change. You want to know what came from it? Nothing better I can assure you. Just years of misery followed that change as it left a young girl very lost.

I finished the book and chuckled a little when I noticed Destiny was watching me put the book away. I guess curiosity gets the best of her too. She should read this book. That will take care of that! Walking toward her I decided to end the staring contest with conversation.

“I guess I am too interesting for you to find a book to read yourself?”

“What are you talking about? I look for inspiration here just like everyone else.”

“Come on. I saw you watching me until I got to the boring book section. You should read what I was reading – it will make you laugh and want to bang your head against the wall at the same time.”

Destiny shook her head slowly and said “I was just doing my job.”

She looked at me with disappointment when I clearly didn’t get her point. She walked away and didn’t look back. I should feel happy about her not needing to watch me but it bothered me instead. What the hell was wrong with me? And why was that stupid book still in my head? I haven’t lost my cheese. Life – sure! But not the need to hunt for cheese.

The library was starting to feel like the twilight zone and I needed to get out. My one safe place made me feel out of place. What else could go wrong?


I left the library with nowhere to go, and I didn’t want to go back home where “she” was lurking. I needed to get a book, but the little people stole that idea.

I decided to take the light rail train downtown and watch people roaming around the 16th Street Mall. I will be the watcher for once. It will keep my mind off of my own lack of life anyway.

Boarding the train at the Parker Station I was surprised to find the train was full. 10:15a on a Wednesday should have offered a practically empty train. I could only find one empty seat and it was next to an interesting young woman. She had beautiful straight black hair, olive toned skin and no makeup that I could see. She was dressed in a dress that looked like something a mom would make for a young girl pattern wise. It had bright orange and yellow sunflowers against a stiffer white material. She smiled while I was looking at her and motioned for me to take the seat.

“Thank you” I said. “I was surprised to see the train so full. Is there an event happening somewhere that I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure. I’m just going to work but I never work at the same place, so I didn’t know if this was a normal crowd or not. My name is Hayati. What’s yours?”

“That’s an interesting name.”

“It comes from my Indian heritage. Its meaning is Life Presence.”

She spoke with kindness and in a soft whisper which was weird. I was at ease and super uncomfortable all at the same time. Her quiet voice was somehow perfectly clear in the crowded car. I guess the twilight zone is following me!

“My name is Hope” I finally offered. “My parents were comedians.”

My sarcasm confused her and she was quiet after and just stared out the window. I wanted to run away. Her presence made me feel out of place even if she was the one who looked it. I wished I was more like her even if I didn’t know what that would mean. Stupid thoughts – go away!

We reached 16th and California Station quickly which helped to end the uncomfortable silence that had monopolized the trip. I was disappointed to see she was also getting off here. Stepping off the train I decided to break the silence. I was on a role with that today.

“Do you work on the strip?”

“Sometimes. I work all over but today I was assigned here.”

“So, what is it you do exactly?”

“It’s hard to explain. I help people I guess you could say. I would like to walk around with you for a while. Would that be okay?”

“Are you thinking I’m the one who needs help?” I asked feeling a bit offended.

“I was just looking for company” she replied reassuringly.

“Ummm sure. Okay then. I didn’t have anywhere particular to go. I just wanted to come watch people for a while.”

“Why?” she asked with genuine curiosity.

“Long story short – I couldn’t find a book in the library today.”

She smiled like she understood and we just started walking. The universe was offering a very strange day. Is there a full moon bringing all these strange women into my life? What was I doing to deserve their company?

“Why did you say your parents were comedians?”

Her question startled my thoughts. “Oh, just because of my name. They weren’t really comedians. They named me Hope and that is the one thing missing from most of my life. I try to laugh about it until I remember I am the joke – and then suddenly its less funny.”

“I see. I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t feel hopeless around you if that helps.”

We kept walking but I could tell by her face she had more to say. She did seem to enjoy watching the people down here too. The 16th Street Mall is an interesting place. People range from business professionals, casual workers, hot dog stand owners, aspiring artists and many homeless. I wondered if she would want to have a hot dog with me. She doesn’t look like the type to purposely eat one though. Instead I found an open bench close to a young girl playing guitar and decided it would be a good place to take a rest.

“What do you want to happen in your life? What trust is missing?” she finally asked.

“Those are some odd questions, Hayati. Did I mention anything about missing trust?”

“You said you have no hope in your life. I am just trying to understand why.”

“I don’t think about what I want anymore. It just leads to disappointment. I am 32 years old and the only consistent thing in my life is I keep getting older without purpose. I don’t have hope because I don’t have a purpose and that bothers me a lot. When I come down here I enjoy watching people because I see both people with purpose and people who are lost. It’s nice to know I am not alone, but I wonder why some have hope and others don’t. Life is unforgiving for some I guess.”

“So who has purpose here? Those wearing a suit or nice tennis shoes? The hopeless are the homeless? What do you see exactly?”

“It doesn’t take a suit to have purpose. It doesn’t take not having a home to be hopeless. It takes knowing where you want to be and the ability to smile. The smile is hope and knowing where to go is purpose. Some are homeless here but playing an instrument with passion. They are not hopeless – just lost. I have a home but no purpose or hope. The face tells all you know.”

“Okay. Interesting. Do you have faith?”

“Faith?” I laughed. “Faith and hope tend to go hand-in-hand you know?”

She nodded in agreement.

” No, I don’t. My life was stolen and broken when I was 17. I have had 15 straight years of stumbling and disappointment. So, no, I don’t have faith because it takes hope to have it.”
“Hope – I am sorry you lost so much years ago. Life gives you choices, but it also gives you things that are not your choice. Somehow people have to navigate the barriers to reach what they were looking for. It sounds like the barriers stopped your navigation, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

She paused and I debated screaming at her.
“My time is almost up, but I have a gift to give you before I leave” she said while pulling a small book out of a large pocket in her dress.

“The Energy Bus?” I asked confused.

“Yes. I think you should read it. If you find it helpful give it to someone else. Just give it a try. You did say you were looking for a book earlier, and maybe you didn’t find one because I had the one you were supposed to read.”

“So your job is to judge strangers and then give books to them?” I asked while wondering if my face was as red as it felt.

“My job is to be present. I am not judging you. I am just present in the moment you shared, and then I trust things happen exactly as they should. Just like you getting on that train, and the only seat available was the one next to me. I do have to go now. Enjoy the book!”

She walked away and I was confused. I wanted to throw it in the trash because this nice women just judged the crap out of my life, and she didn’t even know me. She also acted like she cared about someone she didn’t know, and that was a new experience for me. I didn’t throw it away even with the urge to do so. It was the first gift I had been given in many years, and I figured if I can read about mice and cheese… I can read a book about an energy bus too. Maybe it will help me write a story about living in the twilight zone.


I got home and started reading The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. I had to admit the first chapter made me laugh. The bus driver’s name was Joy and she was full of happiness and energy. She was the last thing George wanted that day, and her name being Joy irritated him further. It made me think of Grace and Destiny and how their names mirroring their presence annoyed me. Hayati’s name and meeting her was okay. Her name means Life Presence, but it isn’t as flagrant as Grace, Destiny, or dare I say – Hope. I am happy that I don’t have a Joy in my life though. That just might send me over the edge as I am not strong enough to handle that one!

“God keeps breaking your heart until it opens” is a quote from the book that got me. What if your heart breaks until it’s just broken? Then what? Demons and ugliness followed my brokenness. Now my sanity was being tested further by my day today. Why did Hayati give this book to me? Luck of the draw? Or curse?

I forced myself to finish the book since it is the first gift I have been given in a long time. The book is almost 160 pages, but the pages are small so it didn’t take long to read. I was disappointed with myself for reading it when it was over. What a waste of time. There are 10 rules taught in the book, and number 10 was “Have fun and enjoy the ride.” Right! I am not sure when I last enjoyed anything. I guess that makes me the energy stealing person the book talked about. But how would Hayati know that? Why would Destiny keep watching me until I found Who Moved My Cheese? Why is Grace always there when I am the least Graceful? Why is my name the very thing that was stolen from me life?

“The heart acts as an emotional conductor with an energy field that can be detected 5 to 10 feet away” was another quote from the book. Maybe that is why Hayati gave me the book. I am radiating negativity and misery. But I didn’t put it there! Shouldn’t that matter?

*knock, knock, knock*

What the hell? No one ever knocks on my door? Walking softly toward the door I found no one on the other side from the peep hole. I had no choice but to open the door and check, but all that was on the other side was a small box on the ground with a note taped on the top.

You have been missing this for some time now… and I think you are ready to have it back. I am returning it in better shape than the day you let it go.

No signature and no soul around to know who could have dropped it off. Peeling away the brown paper wrapping I found a plain wooden box inside. Opening the box I found a heart shaped crystal that looked just like the one my mother gave to me years before she died. It broke into many pieces the day her and my dad died in a car accident, and I threw it away when that happened. Now somehow, someway, it was put together again in two solid pieces. The heart laid open, side by side, in the box.


The next day I went back to the library. Grace was eating in the café and Destiny was standing at the stairs on the second floor. Both had their eyes on me the second I walked through the door. Both smiled and nodded in my direction. I returned the smile which was a different response for me.

“Hello Hope! Back again to find what you didn’t find yesterday?”

“Hi Grace. No. Not Exactly. I came to talk to you and Destiny.”

Grace turned toward the stairs and motioned for Destiny to come down.

“You look better today, Hope. I’m sorry if I bothered you yesterday.”

“You did bother me but only because I didn’t understand your purpose. I think I get it now. That is what I wanted to talk to the two of you about.”

Both waited for me to continue…

“Thank You! Yesterday was an odd day, but now I know it was exactly as it should have been. Grace – you brought me back to reality but in the nicest way possible which lead me to Destiny. Destiny – you watching me helped me find a very strange book. It turned out it’s a great book once you get the point of it. That book opened me up just enough, even if I didn’t realize it at the time, to meeting Hayati. She was a kind lady I met on the train yesterday. Somehow she knew to join me downtown and gave me a new book to read called The Energy Bus. A book that made me feel resentful, but after getting my heart back yesterday, is now a book I know I needed to read. You fulfilled your purpose and my life was the benefit. I just cannot thank you enough.”

“That’s great!” Grace said.

“An now you have filled yours” Destiny replied.

“What purpose is that?” I asked confused.

“You gave us Hope” they offered in unison.

I smiled. I could feel it. I was proud of it. I just need to hold onto it this time so that I can share what these 3 ladies did for me. I guess I could write a small book. After all . . . they seem to work wonders!

Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized

Picking Up Pieces

sky

The faded blue summer sky highlighted the heat for Amanda’s friends and her to play in today. Hide and seek, running through sprinklers and drinking from the hose would be a part of their play time. Only children appreciate carefree days like this. Amanda loved to play outside. Each year her light blonde hair would turn almost white by summer’s end. Her four friends of similar age and an equal mix of boys and girls helped her enjoy summer days.

Before Amanda I had never noticed how present the sound of silence was even with noises of children playing outside. The silence was often shattered by the ominous sounds of police and ambulance sirens and my daughter’s reaction to them. The sirens would startle Amanda every time. She would drop to her knees, cover her ears with her hands, and scream and cry with a similar eerie sound of the sirens that excited her fears.

Dan and I adopted Amanda when she was almost two-years-old. Her mother and father were killed in a car accident and she was the only survivor. Amanda’s paternal family was limited, and while we kept her paternal grandparents in her life, they too were stolen from her life before she was four years old. She doesn’t seem to have much of a memory of them now, but we keep photos of them and her parents in a collage-type frame on her bedroom wall. Her family didn’t leave her life voluntarily, so Dan and I decided keeping their memory close to her was the right thing to do. She doesn’t ask questions about the pictures, and we haven’t talked much about them so far. Life has a way of helping you know when to do something, and Dan and I were waiting for the prompting.

“Mom!” her voice startled me while lost in thought.

“Yes. What?” I responded as calmly as possible.

“Can we all have a popsicle? It’s hot outside.” She asked with an excitement I admired.

“Of course. Trash, and I mean all trash, better make it to the trash when you are done.”

“Okay.” She ran out the door to give the good news to her friends.

Dan and I always keep a stash of popsicles in the freezer in the garage for Amanda and her friends. It is a cheap treat and helps keep Amanda and her friends close to home. Dan threatens to quit buying them often because he is always cleaning up the trash they leave behind. Someday they will learn. I hope.

“I see my words fell on deaf ears again, Megan.” Dan says in a playful tone while coming in from the garage.

“I will check on them in a few, and make sure they put their trash in the trash” I assured him.

“Don’t forget to look behind the bushes. They are great at hiding it there.”

The twinkle in his eyes always made my heart melt. I wish he could have passed those eyes onto a child for us to have together, but God had a different plan for us. Amanda was our plan, and what a wonderful blessing she was to our family.

“I need to go into the office for a bit. Are you okay to watch the kids? After I check on the trash of course.”

“That’s fine. I talked to Seth’s dad a moment ago and his wife did the same thing. Stuck him at home with the kids that is.”

“I am so glad the men of today can handle the responsibility” I teased.

“Very funny” he said while kissing me goodbye.

His truck was blocking my car in the garage, so I guess I’ll be driving that today. It is silver, with chrome trim, and in perfect condition. The truck is five years old, and with the exception of the body style, looks brand new. I always worried damage would happen when I was driving it. I hated having that responsibility.

“Amanda” I yelled. Did you guys throw your trash away?”

“I think so” she replied.

“Then why do I see wrappers and sticks on the porch?”

“Sorry Mrs. Helton! I will do it right now” Johanna offered to save her friend.

I watch Johanna scurry to keep her friend out of trouble. Her hair was black, straight and as long as Amanda’s. They were best friends and I could see their friendship lasting a lifetime. Just as I started the truck sirens in the distance sounded. I looked towards my daughter as she was quickly paralyzed with fear. Suddenly she ran into the back of the garage, cowered to her knees and started screaming. I shut off the truck and ran to be with her.

“Amanda Honey. It’s okay. Those sounds won’t hurt you” I said while wrapping her in my arms and rocking her calmly.

Just then Dan came running into the garage, and her friends stood at the garage opening. They all looked confused and concerned just like the other times this had happened. The noise kept getting louder, so we knew they were going to stop close to our home.

“Hey princess…. it’s okay” Dan offered while rubbing her back.

As luck would have it the emergency vehicles came to the house across from ours. Amanda’s eyes had a new and elevated fear that her voice could have never matched. We watched patiently as men jumped out of their vehicles to get inside our neighbors home.

“Henry is in trouble so these guys are just here to help” I said to Amanda.

Amanda’s friends slowly inched closer to her while watching the paramedics and police scramble outside. We all watched in silence except for Amanda’s cries. She had never spoken when the sirens made her scream, and when the sounds ended, life simply resumed as it had before. But not this time. This was too close for life to go on once the sounds were over.

After what seemed like forever, but really only six minutes, we watched the paramedics bring our older neighbor, Henry, out of his house while secured on a stretcher. They were talking to him, but we couldn’t hear anything they were saying.

“Amanda” I said softly. “Let’s move closer to our driveway so you can see he is okay.”

I picked her up while I stood to walk out of the garage. Dan and her friends followed my lead. We were all worried about Henry so getting closer seemed to be the right thing to do. After putting Henry in the ambulance, and shutting the doors, my daughter’s voice finally found life.

“He is dead?” she asked through sobs.

“No princess” Dan said. “he is just sick somehow and they are here to help him.”

The lights came back on for the ambulance and quickly drove away.

“He will never come back.” Amanda said.

“Of course he will” I said.

“That’s not what that truck does! They leave and never come back!” Amanda yelled while squirming out of my arms and running inside.

“Sorry guys. Come back in a couple of hours. She just needs some alone time with this happening today” Dan told her friends. They all left quietly with their heads down.

Dan and I walked inside and up the stairs to Amanda’s room. As expected, she was in her room, with her purple comforter pulled over her head. Quiet sniffles let us know she was still really upset. We reached her bed and I half-balanced myself on the limited available space on the side of her twin bed. Dan stood beside me.

“Amanda” I said softly.

“What” she asked while sucking snot through her nose.

“Let’s talk about what just happened outside, okay?”

Her comforter tossed in the air abruptly, and she sat up with attitude in her arms while continuing to push the covers for her bed away.

“Tell us what you are feeling so we can help you” Dan said.

“He is never coming back!” she yelled again.

“Amanda, I have been in an ambulance before and I am still here. Just because you get help doesn’t mean you don’t come back” I offered.

“Well, maybe you weren’t in the one I just saw.” Her eyes showed a defiance to the comfort I tried to offer.

“No, but an ambulance comes when there is an emergency. If you need more help they take you to the hospital, and when you are better you get to come home” I said.

“That’s a lie!” she screamed.

“Let me try” Dan offered while signaling he wanted to sit down. Reluctantly I got up.

“Hi princess. I want you to try to listen to me, okay?”

Amanda nodded in response. Admittedly I was annoyed she seemed more willing to listen to him.

“A long time ago, before you were even two-years-old, you were in a serious car accident with these people.” Dan took the frame of pictures off of her wall and pointed to Amanda’s mom and dad.

“Do you remember who they are?” Dan asked.

“Yes, you guys said they were my family first” she answered through a shaky voice from crying.

“Yes. See, this woman is your birth mom. And this guy is your birth dad. Kind of like Mom and I now, but you came from these two people. A truck, a big truck, hit the car you and your first family were riding in. It was a really bad accident.” Dan paused to allow what he was telling her to sink in. I then moved to sit at the foot of her bed so she could see me too.

“The truck hit the front of the car and you were in the back seat. Someone called 911 and the police and ambulances came to where your family was at. Your mom and dad were taken away in a different ambulance than you were taken in. But all of you were transported to the hospital from the accident.”

Amanda sat quietly as though she was living the details he was giving her. Almost like there was a new memory sparked inside of her.

“The doctors tried really hard at the hospital to save your mom and dad. Unfortunately the accident was really bad, and their injuries couldn’t be fixed. Your first mom and dad died that day, but they really didn’t want to leave you. We believe they worked with God in Heaven to help us find each other.”

“I don’t understand” Amanda finally said.

“Your mom and I adopted you because your mom and dad had to go to Heaven. People can raise children whose parents had to leave and it’s called adoption. Megan and I couldn’t have children together, but we were lucky to find you when you needed a family. You went away in an ambulance and you are still here. Megan went into an ambulance when she had a scary diabetic attack once, but she got better and came home too.”

“Amanda, I am so sorry your first parents had to go away.” I said.

Amanda looked down at the pictures and said “I barely remember them. I am not sure that I do.”
“You were really young. But, you do remember that day. Somewhere deep inside you remember, and that is why you get so scared when you hear sirens. They bring back the fear and confusion you suffered the day of your accident” I answered.

“This is a lot of information we are giving you, but we wanted you to have this truth so you can understand what is happening later on” Dan said.

“We love you so much. If you have any questions you just need to ask them. Today, tomorrow – whenever. Okay?” I said.

Amanda nodded and wiped her eyes and nose with the tissues Dan handed her.

“So I have two moms and two dads?” she asked.

“Yes” we replied in unison.

“Are you okay?” Dan asked.

“Ya. I guess I am okay” she answered.

“Do you want me to see if we can find Henry at the hospital? So you can see he is okay?” I asked.

“He is not coming home” she said flatly.

Dan and I both sat confused about what to say next.

“I know that look. I don’t know why. I know that look. He was sad as he said goodbye to me with his eyes. Maybe my other mom and dad had that look?”

“Sweetie, from what we know about what happened… you would not have seen them on the stretcher or going into the ambulance” Dan said.

“I just know that look. Can I go play now?” Amanda asked.

“Of course.” I said. Dan and I were both surprised by the abrupt ending to the conversation.

Amanda was quick to run down the stairs and out the door. Her friends came back over quickly and they enjoyed the rest of their summer day. I never went into the office. Instead we grilled burgers and hotdogs, and tried to make the hours as happy as possible. Amanda seemed okay. I was amazed how so much drama could be tabled by a child. If only adults could keep that craft in their older years.

That night, while I was brushing my teeth, Amanda came into the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat lid. After wiping my mouth I turned to look at her.

“I dream about them. I didn’t know who they were. I had their picture so I thought that is where they came from. In my dreams.” She said.

I smiled. “Are you okay?”
“I guess I am happy to know who they are. I remember a little I think. I think I remember her looking at me in the car. I remember that look. Her eyes. I always thought it was a dream.”

“Well, it might be a bit of both. Our minds are funny that way.”

“Maybe” she said while hopping off the lid. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight” I smiled while she walked away.

After Dan fell asleep I got up to read the articles and information we had about her family and the accident. I hadn’t noticed a line on the police report until reading it now. “The little girl was very confused, but not confused at the same time. Only 22 months old and she said “mom and dad said goodbye.”

I dropped the papers and cupped by hands around my mouth. I started to cry. This poor little girl I thought.

The next day Henry’s son was at the house. Dan and I went out to ask him about Henry, and hoping Amanda was wrong. Amanda was close behind us.

“Hi. We watched what happened yesterday. Is Henry okay?” I asked while expecting the worst.

“He is doing better and inside resting now. Is this little girl Amanda?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied confused.

“My dad asked to talk to her if I saw her. Is she okay to go inside now?”

I looked down at Amanda and she was already walking toward Henry’s front door.

“It’s open” he said. “He is on the couch just inside the door.”

Amanda walked in and somehow Dan and I knew we were supposed to wait outside for her. Inside, Amanda walked slowly toward the couch where Henry was waiting to see her.

“Hi” she said quietly.

“Well Hi to you too. Sit. I won’t break” Henry replied.

“Are you better now?” Amanda asked while sitting.

“I am thanks to you” Henry offered angelically.

“Me?”

“Yep. Thanks to you I had one more job to do” Henry said. “Your family in Heaven needed you to see sirens weren’t a bad thing. They love you and wanted me to tell you that. They are sorry they couldn’t come back after the sirens.”
Amanda started to cry. Finally she offered “Thank you. I am glad you are doing better. I was worried yesterday.”

“Me too” he replied while Amanda was walking out the door to see us.

Our daughter told us what happened with Henry. It only served to warm our souls to learn Henry died that night peacefully in his sleep. Thank God he had the energy for that one last job to do. Thank God her parents are still by her side too.

 

 

Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized

Saving Grace

jesus-always

The light pouring through the basement window was bright but altered through the dirt stuck to the glass. Noise from the outside was as clear inside as it was outside. Life was failing to be blocked from the darkness I was seeking.

Failure is too often the best friend of my choices. I tried dying my hair to block my premature grey from showing, but I was left with dry and brittle hair instead. I tried going to school, and while I earned a degree, I didn’t acquire the knowledge to do anything with it. Then there was my marriage. We had an incredible love affair, but changing it to a committed relationship was the end to the hot beginning we enjoyed. Our divorce was final on January 3, 2017 but the relationship ended one month after we married on May 6, 2016. I couldn’t take the promises in life anymore. I couldn’t be blinded by hope either. I was a failure, and the movement of life outside seemed to mock my reality.

My name is August Rain Thomas. The only natural part of my name is the last name of my father. My mother’s idea to name me after nature doomed me from the start. I know she loved my name, but she didn’t have to live with it! I never took my husband’s last name. I felt the last name of Lander would only bring further banter from people for my “earthly name.” Maybe my decision to keep my name escalated the demise of our marriage? Or maybe this was like the rest of my life; a start with an inevitable ending.

When we separated I moved into my friend, Jesse’s, basement. He has tried to make me see that life isn’t the tragedy I live, and while his ignorance is sweet – it isn’t right. I thought he had given up trying to reach me until I got home from court today. He had a gift wrapped for me on my metal desk. The note attached to the gift said:
“August rain cools the hottest of days, and helps life we need to grow. Here is hoping you can find your benefit to this world once again.” J.

I slowly unwrapped the shiny silver wrapping paper wondering what benefit was waiting for me. It was a small box from Amazon under the paper, and when I opened the box, a small book was waiting for me inside. It was Jesus Always by Sarah Young. 365 devotions.

He has got to be joking. Really? Jesse knows how I feel about religions and their teachings, but he still found this an appropriate gift to give me? My irritation and confusion was growing when I heard the slow creek of the basement door being opened.

“Safe to come down?” Jesse asked sheepishly.

“What the hell is this?” I asked.

Jesse held his hands in the air while walking down the 8 stairs. “August, I know your heart is going through a tough time. I also know you would never choose to read this book on your own. Believe it or not – I am not trying to push any beliefs I might have on you.”

“Well, you need to take a class on how not to push because clearly life hasn’t taught you that lesson yet!” I noticed I was trying to sound more angry than I was.

“I know it can seem that way. In reality, I really want you to find your own answers before the next chapter of your life starts. If He isn’t real you will only confirm that. Or you might find the purpose that has been lost in your trials. If this doesn’t help I will take the gift back. No questions. No debates will follow your giving it back either. Promise.”
“Jesse – thank you for trying to help. You are such a good friend, so to be fair I will read a page or two. Just be ready to find a new home for it.”

“Fair enough” he said while putting his hands back in the air to surrender.

Jesse left and I held onto this purple soft-cushioned book he bought for me.

“What the hell was he thinking?” I whispered.

I ate a snack for dinner and laid on the old metal futon I was using for a bed. It creaked with every movement, and the mattress hardly softened the metal bars it rested on. It wasn’t much but it was mine. It wasn’t nice enough for anyone else to want, and I felt comfort knowing it was something only a fire could rob me of. My bed fit my life so there was hardly any use for complaining about it.

I debated to myself whether to open the book at all. I finally opened it but only because my parents taught me the annoying fact that “it’s the thought that counts.”

I skipped past the introduction and started on the “January” page. It only stated a scripture summary referencing Psalm 119:105 NLT.

“Oh darn, and I don’t have a bible to look that up” I said allowed jokingly. But then I saw another book on my end table I didn’t put there. Sure enough! It was a bible.

“You thought of everything didn’t you Jesse?” I offered while rolling my eyes.

I read the first four devotions; January 1st – January 4th.

Lesson 1: Do not dwell on the past. “Right, like I would do that.”
Lesson 2: I am your joy! “Which is why I am so happy, right?”
Lesson 3: Be still, and know that I am God. “I have always moved a lot I guess.”
Lesson 4: Find joy in Me, for I am your strength.

Each day (or lesson) had a summary of the author’s thoughts based on scriptures listed on the bottom of each page. I read four pages and looked up the scriptures on each page. Already I had done more than I committed to, so he can’t be angry, right?

My parents tried to teach me God is real, but my beliefs never matched theirs, so the teachings ended there. I appreciated Jesse caring about me enough to try to share something good with me. I suddenly realized how much that meant to me. He was a good friend with a good heart.

I noticed I felt a comfort inside of me that I had not felt in many years. I think it was because Jesse made me feel not so alone. I quickly opened the book back up to see the lesson for tomorrow.
Lesson 5: Let my consolation – my comfort – bring Joy to your soul.

“Okay Jesse. I will read for another day or two.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Saving Grace

gray-final

Jon’s daily walks brought peace on difficult days, and allowed him to have at least one healthy habit. Today his walk was different. Today the walk cemented a sadness inside – instead of providing solace from a hectic world. The loss of his angel was something there was no comfort for, and even his legs felt her absence.

The love of his life, Dinah, was the flare to his fire. Her life made his worth living. Her death has made his life worth forgetting. When Dinah died suddenly from a brain aneurism last Tuesday his heart broke. How could the Lord take her away from this world? She provided no harm to it. She was the light in Jon’s life, and many others, and now the world was darker without her. Dinah was only 43 years old when she passed from a world that desperately needed her. Jon needed her to make him the best version of himself. Now he questioned whether there was a God at all. So many people with troubled souls live many years, and what God would leave them here, and take the angels away if He was real? “He wouldn’t – The devil would!” he thought.

Now he was left to travel the rest of his days alone, and with much less deserving souls than hers. He is 45 now, and will likely live until he is 90, regardless of drinking too much until he was 37, and smoking until he was 40. His diet will surely clog his arteries, but it won’t matter – his life will still go on even with a heart that barely works. Jon was angry because he knew she would choose to stay here to make the world better, and him healthier, versus becoming someone who once was. She believed in God with unbreakable certainty. Now he wonders what she would feel if her soul still existed. Life was like the skies today – gray and hopeless. No rain or lighting to accompany the cloud cover – just a gray day with no purpose in the clouds.

As he continued walking, and ranting inside, his shoes started feeling heavier and legs weaker. The weight of the world seemed to be cementing to the sole of his shoes. Feeling his pace slowing, and energy fading, he struggled to keep moving. His strength was approaching a wall without volume or shape, but it would hinder his progress as though solid and tall. “What is happening to me? What is slowing me down? ” he thought.

To the left of the long path was a green cable box, and its invited place to rest was a welcomed opportunity. Feeling thankful for long legs – he sat on the box and waited patiently for his feet to rest.

“Where are you, Dinah? I need you here.” Jon said aloud in a whisper wishing she could hear him.

Just then there was a gold beam of light behind him. The day was cool but he could feel warmth on his back. Jon turned to see the light, and it was from a small opening in the clouds allowing sunlight to touch him. Jon felt a sense of comfort instantly. He felt at peace within the moment. The expansion of rays appeared to spread wider and grace more than just an old man on a box. The dread of the day was given a break, and even the birds chirped to welcome the breach in the clouds.

“Jon, God is real and He is here. He brought me home where I am needed most. Stay strong! I am never far away.” Jon heard the words in his mind, but no sound touched his ears. It was as though his Dinah was speaking to him and giving the comfort desperately needed to keep moving. Were the rays he was seeing from Heaven the path to bring her soul home he wondered?

Energy returned quickly to his body. Jon stood up from the box with his feet finding new enthusiasm to move, and the weight that was there moments before was gone. He couldn’t help but smile to himself. “I guess her body didn’t need to be here for her work with me to continue” he thought as he smiled walking the rest of the way home.

“Thank you, God, for shutting my doubts up so quickly. Take care of her! She is special.” Jon said as he looked to the Heavens. The break in the clouds closed, and he was ready to live another day.

 

Posted in Fiction, Short Story, Uncategorized

Freezing Fantasy

I don’t know why I did it, but the goal wasn’t to hurt anyone. It was a moment that deserved thinking beyond myself but I ignored it. I ignored everything that should have mattered.

My frustration had been building for months. I was lonely, empty, and on fire with a desire to feel alive again. I have spent months sleeping in a bed that is cold even when it is warm. The covers and sheets feel dirty even when fresh out of the wash. The silence in the house might as well be as loud as a train and I had no control to stop any of it. I had no power to silence it. I had nothing to fill it.
I wondered into the wet, fall night with no plan or destination. The streets were cold and shinny from a rain trying desperately to freeze. The few people out were loud only because of chattering teeth and the zipping of coats. The streets felt as lonely as my home and the air equally brisk.
I walked into a coffee shop because I knew a bar would bring trouble for me tonight, Imagine my surprise when I realized a bar would have been the smarter choice. Java Coast was a small cafe 10 miles away from my home. I ordered a white hot chocolate to warm my hands and insides without waking them up at this late hour. Within three minutes my treat was ready, and as I turned to find a seat  I saw him. His eyes were piercing brown, his skin olive and polished, while his hair lavished a rich brown sheen though disheveled in style. He was watching me, and when I returned the stare, the right side of his mouth raised slightly as though to inadvertently expose his thoughts. He didn’t say a word. He just stared. Startled – I hurried past him and grabbed a table and chair in the back while half wishing I was drinking Sex on the Beach in a bar instead.
Within minutes he stood up and avoided looking in my direction. He was taking control of our encounter even though it lacked anything to control. I watched him and wondered what he was thinking, but he wasn’t going to give me anything to know. Instead he reached the door, opened his umbrella and left. I felt disappointed and terrified at the same time. What was I thinking?
Quickly I finished my hot chocolate and got up to leave only to notice him again while looking out the door to leave. He was leaning against my car and staring into the cafe – waiting for me. His breath was white against the chilled air, his face was relaxed as though to advertise patience, and his eyes were fixed on me.
Walking out I stopped about five feet away from him. It took all my energy to finally speak.
“What do you want? I am married, have children,,, Please…”
Without the ability to finish my thought he moved toward me. I felt as though someone was holding their hand against my mouth without anyone actually touching me, What was happening?
He stopped right in front of me, lifted his hands to my face to  gently grasp my jaw line, and waited for my reaction calmly. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move. The rain was now a light snow and the jagged flakes began to coat my eyelashes as I stood there – frozen.
Finally he leaned in and kissed me. His lips were firm and purposeful. His hands were gentle but strong and in control. My body melted without moving and my need to control the moment evaporated,
“Why?” I finally whispered.
But his mouth remained mute and his eyes did all the talking. Finally he smiled and turned to leave, but I knew what he was thinking, He would be back here tomorrow.
My reality was caught in a whirlwind, and somehow this man, this stranger, knew he would get away with taking a small piece of what he wanted without asking. I didn’t know how to feel or what I felt, and I suppose that reality is as terrifying as planning this without any fear of the consequence.