Writing Practice

Free Write #11: Hope

    I’ve had this idea sitting in the back of my mind for a while, so I finally decided to write it down as a free write to share here. As always, once I start writing, the story takes over and it always ends up different than what I imagined originally, but I really like this and I hope you guys do too.
    **Edit- Apparently I need to add an emotional warning to this story. Have the tissues ready.**

    He held the baby tighter in his arms. “Can’t I hold her for just a little longer?”
    Karen laughed. “I thought you had homework to do.”
    “I’ll do it later. Go back to sleep.” He looked down at the sweet bundle again and kissed her forehead.
    “Alright, Ben. Let me know when Noah gets here.” She closed her eyes.
    He bit his lip and waited for her breathing to deepen. Delivery had been hard enough. She didn’t need to know yet that her child was fatherless. He cooed at the child until she too closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. “Don’t worry, little one. I’ll take care of you.”

    Hours later, Noah and Ben’s mother came in to break the news to Karen. Her husband had passed away in a car accident on the way to the hospital to be with her. She broke into sobs and clung to her daughter. “We haven’t even picked a name yet.”
    Ben cleared his throat and rubbed her back. “I was thinking Hope, because at a time like this, I think we could all use a little extra hope in our lives.”
    She smiled through her tears and nodded. “Hope.”
    And so it was that she carried Hope with her into her empty house after being released from the hospital, and a week later she kept Hope with her at Noah’s funeral while Ben gave the eulogy. Karen didn’t want him to, he was only fifteen, far too young for something like that, but Ben insisted.
    Ben also insisted that he would babysit Hope at nights a few months later so Karen could return to work in order to afford the mortgage on the house. “It’s what Noah would’ve wanted,” he reminded her every day. He didn’t mention that he relied on Hope as much as she did.
    Years down the line, he took Hope to the park in the afternoons while he studied for his online college classes so Karen could switch to the day shift at her job.
    “Uncle Ben, look!” Hope would skip up to him with a shiny new rock or a ladybug, or whatever she found interesting that day. Once, she slipped and scraped her knee, tears pouring down her cheeks as she hugged her uncle tight for comfort.
    “Chin up, Hope,” He would say. “Soon it’ll turn into a scar you can show off to prove how tough you are.”
    “Like your scars?” She would gently touch the lines marking the insides of his wrists.
    “Just like my scars, Hope. Now the world knows not to mess with me, and soon it’ll know not to mess with you.” He’d kiss her knee all better and send her off to play again.
    And though she was too young to know where his scars came from, she carried that lesson with her when he dropped her off at her first day of kindergarten with matching princess band-aids on her knees after falling off her bike. She used her scars for show and tell, and when Isaac laughed at her for it, she folded her arms and replied, “Uncle Ben taught me how to punch, too. I can show you next time.”
    Hope was in second grade when Ben brought home a woman for the first time. Her name was Abigail, and Hope refused to talk to her out of jealousy. A few months later, Abigail was replaced by Riley. Hope was nicer to Riley because she would dye Hope’s hair blue and purple despite Karen’s protests. They would eat ice cream in their pajamas and watch movies past Hope’s bedtime, and Hope even called Riley her friend. But Riley disappeared as well, and Hope lectured Uncle Ben long and hard about how mean he was to her friend.
   When Hope was in fifth grade, Ben asked her to be the flower girl at his wedding to Emma, Hope’s kindergarten teacher. She jumped up and down and cheered all the way up until their wedding. Emma asked Hope’s opinion on everything from flowers to dresses, and together they planned what Hope deemed the perfect wedding. She said it was the happiest day of her life when she got to walk down that aisle.
    It broke her heart when Ben came to sleep on their couch two years later because Emma kicked him out. He said their marriage was over and it was all his fault. Hope turned on his favorite movie and went to make popcorn. Instead, she called Emma up and begged him to take Ben back. Hope didn’t know what happened between them, and she didn’t care. She knew they loved each other. Emma agreed to try, for Hope.
    Three years later, Emma went on her first date, and she giggled and giggled at the top of the stairs while she listened to Uncle Ben give Isaac, the bully from kindergarten, a stern talking too. Before he let her out the door, he wished her well and kissed her on the forehead.
    On the weekends, Uncle Ben took Hope to the school parking lot and taught her how to drive in his old Honda. Everything was great for Hope.
    A few months later, she came running into Ben’s house in tears because Isaac wanted to date someone else. She called and called for Ben, but he didn’t answer. She spotted the light in the bathroom, and when he didn’t respond, she kicked open the door.
    Ben was passed out on the floor an empty bottle of pills in his hand.
    Frantic, she called an ambulance. On the counter, she discovered a quickly scribbled note talking about how Emma had left him for someone else and how he didn’t want to live anymore. She rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital and waited while they pumped his stomach.
    Her mother met her in the waiting room.
    “Why would he do this, mom? Why would he try to leave me behind?” She sobbed into her mother’s chest.
    “I don’t know, honey, but I do know that at a time like this we could all use a little extra hope in our lives.”
    The nurse came out and said they could go back and see him now.
    She worked on homework while he slept, and eventually his eyes opened again. 
    “What are you doing here? I don’t want you to see me like this.” He said.
    “Uncle Ben, your scars are supposed to make you stronger.” She fingered the lines on the inside of his wrists, now faded after fifteen years.
    He looked away, ashamed.
    “If you thought that I would never find out what those were, then you’re dumber than you look. I’ve known for a couple of years now. But you can’t give up. I still need you.”
    “No one needs me anymore, Hope. You’re all grown up now.”
    “Isaac broke up with me.” She tried to hide the tears that started to roll down her cheeks, but Ben caught a glimpse of them anyway. “Uncle Ben, I still need you.”
    He reached out and squeezed her hand.
    “I’ll take care of you.” 
    Hope received her driver’s license before Ben was released, and she made sure to drive him to rehab every week while he recovered. When he asked why she was doing so much for him, her only response was, “It’s what Noah would’ve wanted.”
    Hope never went inside to Ben’s meetings, but one day a woman came out to greet her when she arrived to pick him up.
    “You must be Hope.”
    “I am. And you are…?”
    “I’m Zoe. I lead Ben’s recovery meetings.”
    Hope smiled. “Thank you for taking such good care of him. He means the world to me.”
    Zoe leaned against the side of the car. “He should be out in a minute. He wouldn’t like it if he knew I was out here, but he talks about you a lot.”
    “He does?”
    “Every meeting, he says that he owes everything in his life to Hope. At first we all thought he was talking about desires or wishes, but soon we learned he was talking about you. How he was suicidal up until you were born and your father died. How your mother was so upset and didn’t know how she was going to make ends meet, and how he was so in love with you from the moment he first met you that he knew he had to make sure your life was perfect.”
    Hope teared up a little. “I owe everything in my life to him, too.” 
    “He’s grateful that you found him that day. You’ve saved his life more than once.”
    “I don’t know what I would’ve done without him.”
    Ben walked out the door and spotted the two of them talking.
    “Anyway, just thought you should know.” Zoe tapped on the car and walked away.
    Ben hopped inside. “Hey, Hope. What was that about?”
    Hope blinked back her tears. “Nothing. Zoe was just introducing herself.” She started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “I love you, Uncle Ben.”
    “I love you too, Hope.”
    Ben continued his recovery with the help of Hope, and though he never remarried or had any children of his own, he was able to walk Hope down the aisle at her wedding and when she had a daughter of her own, Ben graciously took on the role of grandfather, and taught Faith everything she needed to know about life. The most important lesson was about having hope.

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