~Chapter 5 to Hopes and Destinies! We are half way there people!~

Welcome my readers to yet another spectacular chapter in my novel Hopes and Destinies! I am excited to announce I quit my job so I am now working from home which means I have alot more time on my hands to write and to finish the books I write! Like promised though I have chapter 5 finished for you all to read for the weekend! I am going to be starting chapter 6 tonight! Hoping to have it done by Tuesday! Until then, like always thanks for reading and enjoy! 

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping…What time is it?

I roll over, pull the blankets off my face, open one eye to realize the clock on the microwave reads 09:45AM. I jump off the futon in a hurry. Oh, no! I am forty-five minutes late to my breakfast date!

I scramble around trying to gather myself, wishing I had grabbed the cop’s number last night so I could call him now and apologize about being late. I can’t believe I overslept!

Forty-five minutes gone out of our date…am I feeling saddened by that? Yes, I think I am.

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!

I stop in my tracks realizing the knocking sound is coming from my front door. Who could that be this early in the morning? No one ever knocks on my door…

I walk cautiously towards the door on high alert. This is the part where I wish I had a peep hole on my door…but I don’t. There are two chains that lock the door; top corner and right above the door knob. I open the door slightly without removing the chains. What I see on the other side of the door baffles me. I am shocked because on the other side of the door staring back at me with bright grey eyes on this sunny Tuesday morning is Jason with a big smile across his face.

“Sorry, I would’ve called, but you didn’t give me your cell phone number,” Jason says when he sees my face appear through the space of the opened door.

I am speechless and frozen. I stand there looking like an idiot not saying a word, eyes wide.

Jason starts laughing and continues talking. “I’ve been waiting for almost an hour downstairs in my car. I figured I’d come up here and check on you. Did you know your stairs are very dangerous?”

I nod, still unable to speak. Nodding Is all I got going for myself right now. Oh, my goodness he looks so fine in the street clothes he’s wearing today. He must be off duty today because he appeared at my door wearing Oakley sunglasses, khaki shorts, a plaid button up shirt that hung tight to his muscular body, and tennis shoes. His medium brown hair was even spiked in the front with a little bit of hair gel. Wait…did he just say he was waiting an hour for me? I think I’m in love…no, that was yesterday. Today, I’m definitely in love with this guy. Oh, this is bad…

“Are you going to be a good house guest and let me in, or am I going to have to stand out here all day looking at your beautiful morning face through this space in the door?” His voice brings me back to reality.

I close the door suddenly, scaring myself even, and undo the chains. When I open the door again, he’s still standing there, but he’s holding something out to me. Roses. A dozen of pink roses. I take them cautiously, watching him as I do.

“What’s wrong? No one ever give you roses before?”

I shake my head. I’ve dated other guys in the past, but none of them were ever “gentlemen” enough to do anything like that for me or even wait almost an hour for me. Anyone else would’ve given up after fifteen minutes.

“Well, I would’ve gotten you a single rose for every time I thought of you last night, but I don’t make that kind of money, yet. So, I hope you’re OK with a dozen roses,” he explains with a sincere look in his eyes.

Why does he have to be so charming?

I am suddenly embarrassed because I realize I am standing in the middle of my doorway holding a bouquet of roses, dressed in my black sweatpants and white camisole; the clothes I fell asleep in last night. I am now self-conscious to the fact that my nipples are clearly visible through the white camisole because Jason is staring right at it with the biggest grin possible spread across his face. I turn to walk toward my clothes bin that is sitting next to the futon, setting the flowers on top of the counter as I pass. Jason follows me into the apartment and closes the door softly behind him.

“Wow. Small,” is all Jason says after he has had time to look around a little bit. I think he says it more to himself, though because it came out more like a whisper.

I turn back around to watch him for a moment as he takes everything in, then I dig through the clothes basket to find a sweatshirt I can put over my camisole to cover up the thin, see-through fabric. I find one near the top and put it on quick; my favorite purple zip up sweatshirt from Aeropostale. When I turn back around to look at him, he’s standing in the middle of my living room/bedroom staring at me with a confused look on his face.

“You look even more beautiful in your pajamas and morning hair than when you’re dressed up for the day. Please don’t cover up,” he begs. That comment alone with how honest he was about it has me numb in every place of my body. Wanting more.

I fold my arms across my chest indicating the sweatshirt stays on…for now. He doesn’t argue, instead he gives a simple nod and turns his attention to my tiny one-person kitchenette.

“So, since you slept in today, which is perfectly fine, how about I familiarize myself with your closet sized kitchen over here and cook you breakfast,” he suggests as he walks into the kitchen and starts opening cabinets.

“Like breakfast in bed?” The only thing that pops into my head.

“Yep, exactly like breakfast in bed. Now, do you prefer pancakes or waffles?”

Is he serious right now? First, he waits almost an hour for me outside in his car. Then, he gets this brilliant idea of walking up the rickety steps to my apartment to check on me. He doesn’t stop there, though. He comes into my apartment, compliments my pajamas in a way that make me love compliments now, whereas before I used to hate hearing them. Now, he insists on cooking me breakfast. There is no way somebody can like me that much…what is he buttering me up for?

“What about our original breakfast plans?” I ask, trying to get him to stop digging around in my cabinets.

“I just made new breakfast plans with you. Now, go sit down and let me make you the Breakfast of Champions,” he says it like it’s a real thing. He says it with such dramatic effect as well and it makes me giggle a little. I try hard to hide it, but he notices the sound and his eyes light up like lights on a Christmas Tree.

“I’m so glad I decided to come up here after all,” Jason says as he finds all the ingredients he needs to cook with.

“Why’s that?” I ask as I make myself comfortable on the futon.

“Because I just got to witness the cutest sound I think I’ve ever heard come from you since I’ve known you.”

That makes me smile, so I try to hide it with a sarcastic comment. “Yeah, well to be fair, you’ve only known me for like three days.”

He gasps. “Wow, way to kill the mood.”

I roll my eyes and turn the TV on. Oprah is on. I never watch TV this early on any day, so all the morning shows are new to me. I get even more comfortable, and decide to chill with Oprah while Jason figures out “the Breakfast of Champions” in my kitchen.

Oprah is talking about politics right off the bat this morning. The presidential election to be exact. The rumor buzzing around the media these days is how Oprah, herself, is going to run for the next presidential election. Now I know why I don’t watch TV this early in the morning. Who wants to hear about the elections and whose running for what this early in the morning? Not unless you’re ninety-years-old and this is the only drama you can get in your life…Who wants drama, anyway? I turn the TV off after leaving it on for a few minutes, and that catches Jason’s attention.

“Nothing interesting on?” He asks.

“Not unless you find politics and Oprah’s speech about herself running for president enjoyable and interesting,” I retort.

“Not a fan. What about any other channels?”

“That is the only channel I get. I usually don’t watch TV this early in the morning. Whenever I watch TV it is right before I go to bed at night and I watch the reruns of the show The Bachelor,” I explain.

“What about movies?”

“Don’t have any.”

“Who doesn’t own movies?” He exclaims, taken back by the fact that I might be the first person he’s ever met that doesn’t own any movies.

“This girl!”

“Can I ask why?”

“I never watched movies growing up.” This is true. I never watched any kind of television living with my mother and father. My father said the television was only for him to watch; my mother wasn’t even allowed to watch it, although she did occasionally when he wasn’t around. He would always find out, though. When I moved out here with Aunt Bethany, we hardly ever watched movies. We always found a better way to spend our time together through conversation and doing things together such as shopping, or gardening, or walking around town. I even picked up stitching when I lived with her because she loved to stitch and it was something we did together almost every night until I left for college; she still does. When I left for college, I was always studying or out partying with friends. Aunt Bethany doesn’t know I partied and she will never know.

“When did you grow up, in the stone age era?” Jason jokes.

“No, as a matter of fact, I grew up in a decent household where we did other activities together that made us laugh and grow stronger together rather than miss out on all those opportunities by sitting in front of the television screen watching dumb movies!” I defend.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry,” Jason says as he puts his hands up in defeat. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Hope. I see you take pride in that aspect of your life and I think that’s awesome, therefore I will not be the one to shoot it down. Besides, I would make a very bad breakfast date if I did so.”

That is one hell of an apology I wasn’t expecting.

“Will you please answer my question?” Jason suddenly asks after his apology that rendered me speechless and feeling like a jerk for exploding on him.

I look at him with confusion because I know he didn’t ask a question just now.

“What question?” I ask.

“Do you like pancakes or waffles better?” He says the question with the voice of a two-year-old and it makes me laugh. He is cute and I know I’m falling deeper and deeper for him every day. I just can’t believe he’s going through all this trouble just for me.

“Waffles,” I say with a smile on my face using the same childish tone he had used.

“Good answer!” He turns toward the cabinet where I have all the equipment to make waffles such as the obnoxiously large waffle maker. It takes him a moment to dig it out, but when he does he turns it on right away and starts beating the waffle mix in a plastic bowl.

A few moments of silence pass between us with me sitting on the futon fiddling with the strings in the pocket of my sweatshirt, and Jason standing at the counter concentrating on cooking. I watch him maneuver around the kitchen as he’s cooking. I want to melt into this futon cushion every time he moves; his muscles in his arms, sides, and abdomen contrast with every movement and are clearly visible through the tight, thin fabric of his t-shirt. Living my life as invisible as I could, I never thought would result in a sexy cop standing in my kitchen cooking me breakfast.

“Do you cook often?” I ask out of the blue. I am genuinely curious if he’s going to poison my food or if it’s going to turn out burnt.

“I do, actually. You see, I have to survive since I live on my own,” he says sarcastically with a smile on his face as he pours batter into the waffle maker, and closes the lid.

“Oh, I thought you lived with your parents…Just how Shayna talked about you and all…You never mentioned you lived by yourself…” I say as I stumble over my words nervously, trying not to sound like an idiot, but failing horribly at it.

He is laughing now. He throws his head back in a fit of laughter. The sound of his laugh makes me jump; loud and boisterous.

“You never asked me, silly,” he responds once he’s finished laughing. “You don’t ever ask me anything about myself. If you would’ve asked, I would’ve told you. Besides, where do you think I take all the ladies to get what I want?”

My eyes are wide now as I stare at him in shock. Did he just confess to me there are more girls besides me, and that he’s after one thing only? I can feel my body tense up at that comment as I watch him pour the rest of what’s left of the pancake batter into the waffle maker after he’s taken out the already cooked waffle. He looks at me as he pours the batter into the maker. His eyes grow dark and serious as he notices my body posture now; I’m holding myself at the knees with a terrified look on my face.

“Hey, Hope,” Jason says softly. “It was a joke. There is no other girl, you know this. I’ve told you everything. If I wanted you for sex only, do you think I would’ve waited an hour outside your apartment? Do you think I would’ve bought you flowers? Do you think I would be standing here right now in your tiny ass kitchen making you waffles?” His voice getting louder with every question he asks. I know I hit a nerve this time.

I nod. I am still frozen on the futon, lost for words. Jason brings the plate of waffles over to me with the butter and syrup. He sits down next to me on the futon, turning his body so he’s facing me.

“Today, it’s your turn to ask the questions, OK? I promise I’ll answer them honestly. I don’t care what it is because I don’t want to lie to you, Hope. I don’t want to hide anything from you. I want you to be able to look at me and trust me. I want you to stop seeing me as that cop that pulled you over the other night and see me as Jason. That is why I took today off work and showed up at your apartment in khakis and a t-shirt,” he explains, his eyes are soft and sincere as he looks at me. I know he’s being as truthful as he can be.

The smell of his cologne is strong and sweet. I inch closer to him to catch more of the scent. Intoxicating. Why does he have to smell so intoxicating as well?

Next thing I know, there are hands on me. On my shoulders. These hands are big hands that look like they have been worked with a lot. Rough and calloused. I realize suddenly to whom these hands belong. They belong to Jason as he sits there holding me at the shoulders, his eyes are wide. It looks as though he’s trying to say something; his lips are moving, but I hear no sound.

“HOPE!” I heard that sound. That was the sound of Jason yelling my name. He is shaking me vigorously. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah…sorry…it’s just that…you smell so good, and I couldn’t help myself,” I stammer as I shake my head to clear it from his scent so I can concentrate on the present.

I look up at him ashamed, and see him smirking. He is having the time of his life right now.

“Wow. I didn’t know my scent had that kind of an effect on someone before. I’ve never had girls fainting over it,” he chuckles. I was fainting?

I feel my face flush and turn away from him.

“What are you doing? No, no. Don’t you dare turn away from me, young lady,” Jason says, grabbing my face with his hands to ensure I look back at him. “Let me see that beautiful face get red. That means you have feelings, you know.”

I pull away from him with all my might, but his grip only tightens on my face. I start using other methods such as my hands and feet to push him away, but his body is made of stone so he doesn’t even budge. He starts using his feet to hold mine down. We do this for a few moments until we are entangled in each other, and out of breath.

“Are you finished? Can we eat now?” Jason asks once he notices my body relax from underneath him. He slowly removes his hands from my face and his legs from my legs.

Once we aren’t entangled anymore, Jason gives me a plate with a waffle on it. He stays facing me on the futon as he dresses the waffle for me before giving it to me.

“Bon appetit!” Jason says when he’s finished dressing up the waffle with butter and syrup.

“Thank you, but I can dress my own waffle, you know,” I tell him sarcastically.

“Yes, I am aware of that, but what kind of chef would I be if I didn’t do it for you?” He counters.

“But, you’re not a chef. You’re a police officer.”

“Only on my days to be a police officer, otherwise I am Chef Steth!” He says with an Italian accent as he puts his fingers together, kisses them, and puts them in the air like the chefs do on TV.

That makes me laugh which makes his eyes light up again. I love seeing the glow in his eyes. They bring life to his face.

“OK, what about the other days, though?” I ask as I finally take a bite of the waffle.

“What do you mean?” He asks in return, taking a bite of his waffle.

“You know, the days you’re not a police officer or Chef Steth.”

“Well, I guess you’ll have to go on more dates with me to see, huh?” Jason states, winking at me. Why did I have to go there? Now, I have to open my calendar to schedule more dates with this guy. Aunt Bethany is going to be so mad at me, but I don’t even care anymore. I want more dates with this guy. I want them all…

“You’re sneaky.”

“You asked.”

We finish our waffles in silence. A good silence, though. Not an awkward heavy silence. It’s the kind of silence that is heavy with emotion; the kind that has visible love and lust in the air that would make the hair on your arms stand on end. It is tempting to push aside our plates and attack him right here on this futon because my body aches for his touch with every passing second of silence.

I put my plate of half-eaten waffle on the floor, and push it away.

“The food not to your standards, Miss?” Jason asks in that sweet hot Italian voice he used moments ago.

“No, it’s delicious. I’m just never usually hungry in the mornings,” I say as I fold my feet in underneath me.

Jason eats the last bite of his waffle, sets his plate on the floor also, and looks at me. He swallows his food before he proceeds with his next question.

“Can I ask you something without you getting offended?”

“Sure,” I nod.

“Do you have feelings for me?”

I’m not sure how to answer this question. Do I tell him no? Do I keep him guessing? Do I tell him hell yes, I do…? I am frozen in thought which builds anticipation.

“I mean…I have to know, Hope. I have to know before I put my heart any deeper than it already is with you…”

What? Did he just confess his love to me? I mean, I already had an idea with his comments and the way he’s been hanging around…but it’s too soon, isn’t it?

Jason scoots a little closer to me on the futon which has my heart racing. “Hope, I can’t help it…the night I pulled you over and you freaked out on me the way you did…it did something to my heart. It woke my heart up, and I never thought I would ever find anyone ever again that would have that effect on me. I’m not ashamed to say that I am falling deeper in love with you every single day, and it tears me apart inside not knowing how you feel. I saw your face turn read earlier, so that must mean something? Don’t leave me guessing, Hope…please. Every night I lay down in my bed I’m wishing you were there beside me. All I do is think about you…I can’t seem to get you out of my head. It drives me crazy, Hope. You drive me crazy…and what it did to me seeing you in nothing but sweat pants and a camisole when you opened that door for me…” He shuts his eyes, hurt by the thought running through his head right now. “I need to know if I can keep seeing you like this…or if I should just move on…”

I should tell him how I really feel because all of this is clearly tearing him apart, and I hate to see him like this. Fighting everything he feels for me because he doesn’t know if I feel the same way. I’m just afraid he might eventually find out who I really am, and I don’t want to have to lie to him. I must be careful.

I put my hand on his face softly and watch as he opens his sad grey eyes to look at me.

“Jason,” I say softly, and he sucks in a breath at the sound of his name coming from my mouth. Like it was the sweetest thing he has ever heard. I realize it is the first time I’ve called him by his name as well. “The day you pulled me over, I hated you. I swore up and down I never wanted to see you again. Then, you show up at my work days later and kidnap me for a dinner date.” He is even more saddened by this statement and tries to pull away from me, but I don’t let him. I put both of my hands on his face firmly to make him look at me. “I still refused to like you that night. It was that same night, however, that you made me start falling in love with you. I was deceived by my own emotions. It is also in this same moment that makes it so very hard for me to sit here next to you with these emotions running through me without ripping all of your clothes off, and giving all of myself to you.”

I am shocked in myself that I said all of that with pure confidence. I don’t want to see him hurt anymore. I want him to know what he does to me every time I’m in his presence.

His eyes grow wide with shock. Then, his lips are on mine like a freight train. Warm, soft lips that mesh perfectly with mine. He parts his lips, and I take full advantage of it. He tastes so good in every crevice my tongue touches.

He slowly pushes me down on the futon so I’m lying on my back, never breaking free from my mouth. He crawls on top of me and braces himself up on his arms that are now on either side of me. I see the muscles bulge in his arms and that makes me moan. He swallows my moan as his lips grow more rapid against mine. He fixes his posture so he can brace himself on one arm, and with the other arm he unzips my sweatshirt slowly. I can feel the blood racing in my veins with every kiss, and every movement he makes.

Once he has my sweatshirt all the way unzipped, he slowly slides his hand underneath the camisole, and lets it rest flat on my stomach, holding me there as we make out.

“Your skin is so soft,” he says quietly against my lips.

I giggle and he’s back on my mouth, kissing all the giggles my body is capable of producing. Then, his hand that’s resting on my stomach starts traveling. It travels northward little by little, tracing circles all over my skin. His mouth never leaves mine as he does this. He gets to my breasts and, without thinking about it, he grabs onto one. He squeezes and rubs repeatedly which has me in a fit of pleasure. I grab onto his hair; fistfuls of brown hair, and start yanking as I kiss him deeper than before. He moans into my mouth, the sound so sweet and addicting. That is when I feel it between my legs; his erection hard as he rubs his body against mine. Oh, this moment is so perfect, bad, and everything I want…

RING! RING!

A cell phone is ringing. Jason doesn’t stop right away, so I make him stop by pushing him off me.

“What’s wrong?” He asks as he sits up.

“My cell phone is ringing. Help me find it,” I say, trying to roll off the futon in search of my phone.

Instead of arguing with me, he straightens up and starts searching for my phone as well. I like the way he doesn’t push anything. He has respect, and I feel like I just fell even more in love with him because of that.

“Found it!” He says as he hands me the cell phone.

I look at the number, not a number I recognize. I hit the green button to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Is this Hope Connor?” A tiny female voice asks on the other end of the call.

I look quickly at Jason hoping he can’t hear. He Is gathering the plates on the floor and taking them to the kitchen.

“Uhm, Morris. Hope Morris…but, yeah this,” I correct quickly in the event he did hear.

“Hi, there, Hope. This is Doctor Dalorez with UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin. We have a patient that checked in here early this morning by the name of Bethany Morris…”

“Oh, my God! Is she OK?” I interrupt frantically. Jason can see the worry on my face and comes back into the living room to sit next to me again.

“Well, that is why I’m calling. Is there any way you could make it in to the office today to speak with me?” The tiny nasally voice says.

“Yes, I can leave my house right now.”

“OK. When you get here, go straight to emergency and ask for Doctor Dalorez.” Then the line is dead.

“What was that about?” Jason asks when I put my phone down away from my ear.

“The hospital in Madison. Aunt Bethany was admitted there this morning.” Tears start to swell up in my eyes. Jason sees this too, and he wraps me in a tight hug.

“I have to go…” I start to say as Jason stands up and grabs his things.

“I’m going with you. Let’s go.”

“What? You really don’t have to…”

He’s cupping my face in his hands again. “Yes, I do, Hope. You need me whether you want to admit it or not. What kind of boyfriend would I be if I wasn’t there with my girlfriend when she needed someone the most?”

I cringe a little. I don’t know if I like how loosely he uses the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. We haven’t even discussed what level we are on, yet.

“Oh, come on! You can’t tell me that after what just happened between us there’s nothing there,” Jason explains obviously noticing the cringe.

“We haven’t discussed it yet, Jason. Your tongue wouldn’t leave my mouth long enough for us to discuss it.”

“No need to. It’s obvious how we feel about each other, especially after our confessions. You can’t tell me that if we went all the way that we wouldn’t be anything.”

He has a point. I am too confused, and worried to even care at this moment. I put my messy brown hair up into a messy bun, zip up my sweatshirt again, grab my purse, and walk out the door. Jason follows suite locking the apartment door behind us. He grabs my arms quickly before we walk any further.

“Hope, don’t make me beg. I want to be a part of your life and I want you to be in mine. I think I proved that enough to you already, and by the way you kissed me back in there moments ago, I know you feel the same way.”

I stare at him, speechless because at this point I don’t know what I want or what is anymore. He has clogged so much of my thinking, I’m afraid I’ll start to get careless with it just like what I did a few moments ago.

“Think about it, OK?”

I nod in agreement just to get him to let go of me. He is everything I want, and the way he makes me feel is out of this world. Am I ready to give all of myself to that? I did tell him that a few moments ago. I need to tell him and it should be soon because I can’t keep doing this to him or to myself.

We make our way down the rickety steps, and across the street to his parked car. I look around for his squad car, but don’t see it. He points to the red Toyota Camry parked right next to my Honda. He unlocks the doors and we hop inside. The scent of new car meets my nostrils.

“New car?” I ask as he starts it up.

“Nope. You’re just used to seeing me in my squad car.”

“But the new car scent?”

“I don’t drive it much. I’ve had this car for about two years now. This is literally the third time I’ve driven it,” he explains as we drive out of the parking lot and down the road toward the highway to Madison.

As soon as we get on the highway, Jason puts his hand in my lap. I take it carefully in mine and squeeze it tight. I do want him in my life, but I know I shouldn’t. I should be truthful with him first…about everything. Now is not the time, though.

Thirty minutes later, we are pulling into the hospital parking lot. He finds a spot in the second row of parking. We get out of the car, he locks it, and together we walk up toward the hospital doors. Once inside, we make our way toward the emergency room. There is a fat old woman with hair as white as snow perched at the reception desk in the emergency room.

“Can I help you?” She whispers very quietly you have to lean in all the way to hear her.

“Yes, we are here to see Doctor Dalorez, please,” I whisper back.

“Please hold one second.” The fat woman stands and wobbles away down the hall leaving Jason and I alone in the waiting area.

Cartoons are being played on the big flat screen TV in the waiting area. Spongebob to be exact. I’m surprised I know that because I never watched that show. Probably because everyone these days knows who Spongebob is. Even elders. His face is everywhere; on pillows for kids, posters, lunch boxes, the internet.

A moment later, the fat lady appears in the walkway.

“Come this way.” She motions for us to follow her. We follow her all the way down the corridor to the last room on the right. An ICU room. Immediately I start crying. I can feel Jason’s hands on my back, rubbing. Soothing.

“Wait right here,” the fat lady says as she enters the ICU room. Please let Aunt Bethany be OK. Please let Aunt Bethany be OK.

A moment later, the fat lady walks back out followed by who must be the doctor. She is at least four-feet tall and scrawny. Her face is sunken in from either lack of sleep or maybe she drinks a lot. Her hair is salt and pepper colored, and pulled back into a ponytail. She wears absolutely no makeup so every wrinkle line is noticed.

“Doctor Dalorez?” I ask in an unsure manner.

“Yes, Hope? Right?” Her voice sounds even more nasally in person.

“Yes, how is my aunt?” I ask in a rush, tears still spilling down my face.

“She’s stable now. Can I ask you how much you knew about your aunt’s medical condition?”

“Medical condition? What medical condition? She’s fine…she always was, I mean. There was never anything unusual.”

“Did she ever look sick or pale to you?”

I take a moment to reflect on the past with Aunt Bethany. She always seemed fine like nothing was ever wrong with her. Normal. Except for last week when I had dinner with her. She looked exhausted, like more than normal.

“I had supper with her last week. Friday to be exact. She looked a little more exhausted than usual, but I thought it was just because she had worn herself out cleaning the house or something,” I explain to the doctor.

Doctor Dalorez sighs. It’s not a good sigh either. It’s one of those sighs that you hear right before bad news is delivered.

Jason grabs onto my hand and squeezes it to let me know he’s here for me. Perfect timing because I nearly forgot he was.

“Hope,” the doctor starts to say with a saddened tone. “Your aunt fainted this morning at work. Her coworkers called 9-1-1 to get her here right away. She wasn’t responding to anyone. After she arrived, I hooked up the IV and started running tests because her body wasn’t stabilizing at all. I found bruising all over legs and arms which led me to do one more test on her hoping I was wrong…” She takes a breath and lets it out before saying, “Hope, Bethany has Stage Four Leukemia.”

I am truly frozen in my spot and lost for words. The hospital feels as though it is closing in on me. How can this be? When did this happen? How could I have not known?

“What are you saying?” I whisper.

“I’m saying your aunt knew for a while she was sick and never told anyone. If she would’ve told someone a lot sooner we would be able to do bone marrow transplants, but Stage Four Leukemia is impossible to treat. I’m saying I’m sorry, Hope. Your aunt is dying,” Doctor Dalorez explains to me very calmly. She touches my arm showing me sympathy, then guides us into the ICU room.

Aunt Bethany is barely visible underneath the blankets and tubes she’s hooked up to. I can immediately tell she has lost a lot of weight; she was petite to begin with.

“Bethany will stay here in this room for the remainder of her time,” the doctor whispers to me before leaving us alone. “If you need anything, I’ll be out by the nurse’s desk. Let me know when you decide to leave.” Then she pulls the curtain closed to give us privacy, and walks out of the room.

“Hope? Is that you?” Aunt Bethany says in a weak voice that nearly rips me in half.

I walk up to her bedside where she can see me, Jason following right behind me. The look on his face is sorrow. He isn’t a bad guy that Aunt Bethany makes him out to be. He’s a little curious, but mostly he has a big heart he just wants to share with everyone. He means well.

“Yeah, Aunt Bethany, it’s me. I brought a friend, too.” I turn to look at Jason. His expression just went sour at the sound of the word friend. I give him a look that says I need him to understand and not do this right now.

Aunt Bethany is strapped down to the bed by buckles. My guess is so she doesn’t move due to all the machines and tubes she’s hooked up to. Her eyes, though, can travel. They travel to the person standing behind me.

“Is there something you want to tell me, Hope?” She asks angrily.

“Aunt Bethany, no, don’t do this,” I protest.

“Do what?” Jason asks in my ear.

I shrug him off and pay attention to Aunt Bethany whom, in her sick state, still looks aggressive when she is angry.

“Why did you bring him here?” She spits at me, her eyes still locked on Jason.

“Aunt Bethany! Stop! You need your rest!”

“Tell me!” Her shouting voice is like a loud whisper now with how weak her body is.

“Why don’t you tell me why you never told me you were sick, huh?” I counter back, leaning over her so I’m in her face now.

She starts tearing up. “Because I didn’t want you to know I was dying. I wanted you to believe everything was going to be OK.”

“They could’ve helped you, Aunt Bethany! The doctor just told me so.”

“It doesn’t matter, Hope, because sooner or later we all die. Even if they could help me, I would live another five, maybe ten years but that would be it…”

“Yes, but that would be another five to ten years from now. You would be old enough and ready! You’re too young to die, Aunt Bethany. You can’t give up this easily.” I feel water on my cheeks. I wipe at it and notice I had been crying this entire time, just too worked up to notice.

“Hope, honey, the day I found out I was sick was the day I gave up. I’m ready to go be with your mother,” she says to me through tears.

“When did you find out you were sick?” I ask her quietly.

“The day your mother died. I had just gotten back from the hospital to receive my test results and moments later you came knocking on my door. I was going to fight it, but when you told me that my sister was dead, I knew I didn’t want to fight it anymore.”

“How did you live this long with it?”

“When I took you to the police station to talk to Chuck Grady, he pulled me aside and told me I had to do everything I could to ensure your safety. I told him I couldn’t because I was dying. I told him I had given up and that I wasn’t going to ask for help because my sister was dead. He told me to at least ensure I live long enough to make sure you make I through school safely. He said once I knew you were safe, I could go peacefully. That was his last mission for me.

“So, I would go to the hospital twice a month to receive blood transfusions. The week I told you I took off for vacation? Was spent in the hospital on and off receiving blood transfusions. I received them more often as time passed because the worse it became,” she explained to me softly. “That’s why Chuck Grady would call me all the time to check in. He wasn’t just checking in, he was making sure I was still alive and protecting you.”

I take a step back feeling like I was just slapped in the face. I can’t believe this…

“Now, you promised me you wouldn’t hang around this boy. He’s a snake, Hope…” She starts to say, but I’m quick to interrupt her.

“What do you know about him? Probably not near enough as I do!”

“I know well enough of what he’s capable of.”

“What? Capable of caring? Capable of love?” I sneer.

I see out of the corner of my eye Jason has moved back slowly, the look on his face horrifying. I instantly feel bad that he has to hear all of this. Now he will know the truth no questions about it. He needs to after this.

“After all this time of trying to protect you, you go off and risk it by hanging around a cop. Has my life meant nothing to you? Has your mother’s life?”

“Don’t you dare throw my mother into this! Is it such a crime to be happy, Aunt Bethany? Is it really that much of a crime to be happy with someone! To be in love!”

I can’t help but notice Jason’s eyes light up at that last part. That should be all the indication he needs about how I feel about him.

“Be in love with someone else, Hope. If he finds out, you can kiss your life goodbye.”

Just then the nurse comes in and says she has to feed Aunt Bethany. I say my goodbyes and walk out the door, Jason trailing right behind me. None of us says a word until we are outside the building, walking to his car. He grabs my arms to stop me and spins me around so I’m facing him.

“You mind telling me what I’m not supposed to know? Why doesn’t your aunt want you to see me?” He explodes in my face.

“Jason, you wouldn’t understand. Yes, I believe I’m truly in love with you which makes all of this hurt so much. It is also why I can’t keep putting you through this. This is why I refuse to tell you what we are or what I want us to be,” I explain as truthful as I can. I turn to walk away the moment he shouts back at me.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean, Hope? Don’t walk away from this, dammit! Talk to me!”

Just then, two men dressed in black come at me from both directions. I notice they are detectives right away by their ear pieces and badges hanging from their belts.

“Miss Connor, please come with us,” one of them says to me as they approach me.

I start to fight them and scream for help as they grab both of my arms. Jason tries to step in, but is confused on why the detectives are taking me away.

“Stay out of this, Mr. Steth. We will have you fired for hiding a fugitive if you don’t,” the other man says to Jason. Jason takes a step back completely dumbfounded at the situation happening right before his eyes.

“Miss Connor,” the first one says to me. “You are being transported back to Chicago, tonight. For now, we have to take you into the town police station to sign your release papers to have you transported back.” He puts my arms behind my back and handcuffs me.

I can’t believe this is happening right now. I can’t even look at Jason because I feel too ashamed and the look on his face will break me into pieces knowing I hurt him. I lied to him. No, I just refused to tell him the truth. The whole truth.

“Please follow us, Miss Connor.”

I am being thrown into the back of a squad car. I am crying now as I watch Jason get smaller and smaller until he’s no longer visible. I am crying because for once in my life I felt safe. That no one would ever find me, but they did. Ten years later.

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