Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Hope. She’d always had it. She never really knew for what, but felt she had to honor her name by always carrying that feeling with her. It was all she had left from her family.
She walked through the trees that surrounded the cabin after Jack left. The morning dew was still heavy on the ground and the heat from the sun had yet to make the day unbearable. As she walked she thought about the path that had led her back here.
Many seasons had passed since she’d been gone, and time had carried her far away from this life – or so she thought. Maybe I never really left, she thought. Maybe I was simply taking the long way home.
Home. It occurred to her as that word crossed her mind that she’d never really had one. Her parents died when she was young and the people that were supposed to be watching out for them took her in. She had no complaints about her life during that period, but she certainly never qualified it as home. There was too much moving around to get rooted any one place.
It was that life that taught her to take nothing for granted and to rebel against any and all conformity. She was working deep within the resistance movement before the war when Jack found her. Being one of the few people she trusted from her youth, she followed him blindly into a life that would keep her on the run in some form or fashion for the next decade. Truth be told, she was still running; the only thing that changed were the reasons she ran.
The years she spent with Jack and his gang she remembered fondly. They traveled the globe, going wherever their services were needed at any given time. The group was so tight knit that no matter where any of them were, or what they needed, the others could always be trusted to be there when called. This group was the closest thing she had to a family. And, she supposed, a home.
As she meandered along, lost deep in her thoughts, she found herself on a cliff. It was a cliff she knew well, for she’d spent countless hours here once upon a time. It was a perfect place to spend some time alone, or with a companion, depending on her mood. And except for one, no one knew about this place.
As she stared out over the vastness below, the memory of precisely why she left came rushing back. The memory of what she’d done – of what nobody else knew she’d done – was her burden to bear, and she had chosen to bear it alone. She had long ago made peace with it, but then she’d never had to face it either.
And then there was Luke. If anyone deserved a goodbye, if not an explanation, it was Luke. He had taken care of her and loved her and given her his all. He was her strength when she faltered and the reason she could face each day with dignity and grace.
No matter how many miles and days she put between them, those feelings hadn’t changed since she left. But left she did, without a word. But now she was back. Jack had called her for a reason, and she needed to know why.
She took one more lingering look out over the scenery before her and took a deep breath. “I can’t run forever,” she said, before heading back to the cabin.
The sun was high by the time she reached the clearing. As she emerged from the tree line, she noticed a reflection from the sun glinting off something that wasn’t there before. Another car, one she didn’t recognize, was parked next to hers.
She stepped back into the shadow of the trees and started to work her way around the edge of the clearing. When she got within 100 yards of the cars, she stopped in her tracks. Whoever was there was behind her. She did a slow turn, wishing she had her gun, and found herself standing within a few feet of him. As he stepped out from behind a tree, her heart began to race.
Friday, December 16, 2011
She awoke to the sound of an engine in the distance. It was dark again. She had somehow managed to sleep through the entire day. She got up and walked to the window that faced the road. There she saw the tiniest hint of lights heading her way.
He heard the click of the gun before he saw her. “It’s ok Hope, it’s just me – Jack.”
“I know. Otherwise, you’d have never heard me cock my gun.”
“How’ve you been, my dear? It’s been awhile.”
“I’ve been good. Getting by. You know how it goes.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I do.”
He walked over to her and hugged her, wrapping her up in an embrace full of longing, for he knew that she was never his – nor ever would be.
“Let’s go inside. It’s hot out here,” she said.
He walked to the car and grabbed a couple bags before following her into the cabin. “I brought you a few things I thought you might need. Didn’t figure this old place had anything left in it.”
“It doesn’t,” she said. “Please tell me you brought coffee.”
“Of course. I remember how useless you were without it.” He smiled at this, knowing she would follow up that statement by hitting him.
“Kiss it, Jack. You’re no better!”
“Never said I was.” He walked over to the bar separating the kitchen from the den and unloaded the bags and started a pot of coffee.
“So what have you been up to Jack? Still running with that crazy dame you found on the streets?”
“She wasn’t from the streets, she just wasn’t…refined. But no, I had to get rid of her. She talked too much. That happened not long after you disappeared actually.”
“Yeah, sorry about not saying goodbye. I had to take care of some things, and I had to do it alone.”
“And it took you this long to do it? Hope, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I promise. There just came a point when coming back no longer felt like an option.”
“I understand. So are you hungry? You want a sandwich?”
“No, just coffee. Not in the mood to eat.”
“You never were.” He made her a cup and poured himself a glass of whiskey before joining her on the couch. She was curled up in the corner, having somehow positioned herself to look like she was sitting up and lying down all at once.
“You’re still as beautiful as ever. The years have been good to you.”
“Thanks, that’s sweet. You’re looking good too. And it’s really good to see you. I had forgotten how nice it was to see a face you can trust.”
“Yes, those faces are few and far between.” He got up and walked to the window and stared out into the darkness.
“So how did the job go? Was it clean?”
“Did you leave any trace?”
“No Jack, you know I’m thorough. If I thought I could get caught, I wouldn’t have done it.”
“Good. We don’t want anyone suspecting who is behind this.”
“Who would? You all have alibi’s right? And I’m nothing but a distant memory in most minds – as far as anyone knows, I’m dead.”
“But you’re not dead. You’re right here, just like old times.” He paused a moment before turning to look at her. “Was it hard to do?”
She sat silent for a few minutes before answering. “Honestly, no. I suppose some things you just know, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve done them.”
He chuckled before resuming his position on the couch. They sat in silence, both lost in their own thoughts for awhile.
“Why did you call me Jack? Certainly you know plenty of others that could do just as well.”
“No, they couldn’t. Some jobs are something of an art, and that is a skill I have never found since you left. Plus, he asked me too.”
She sucked in a breath as a knife pierced her heart at the mention of him; more so at the thought of him mentioning her.
“How is he?” she asked, barely above a whisper.
“He’s doing okay. Has good days and bad, like any of us I guess.”
“Is he happy?”
“Happy? I’m not sure what happy is to him, but I suppose so. I will tell you this - when you left, he was lost, for he lost his Hope.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The night wrapped her in a cloak of safety. She knew once the sun rose again it would shed light on what she had done and she needed to be as far away as possible. She scanned her surroundings intently as the headlights of her car washed over the sides of the road. She was looking for anything that might give her away; anyone that might be able to pinpoint her to this location.
Her cobalt blue eyes, deep as oceans and streaked with red, darted between fear and resolve. The beads of sweat that lined her brow might have given her away had the night not been so hot. Her thin dress clung to her slight frame, offering no relief to her body from the wind coming through the open windows. The air was otherwise still; so still that it made the dust that kicked up from the tires hang in the air before slowly drifting back to the ground.
When did this road get so narrow, she thought. I don’t remember it being so narrow. She had driven this route a few times in the past, though she couldn’t pinpoint exactly how long it had been. It had been years since she had any reason to take it, for she’d had no reason to hide. But now there was reason and she hoped her memory wouldn’t fail her.
As she traveled on, the road before her became less and less apparent, with ruts barely visible as wild bushes overtook what little indication was left. The branches of the trees on either side snarled together creating a canopy right above the roof of her car. She almost decided she had taken a wrong turn when it suddenly opened up into a clearing. Nestled in the corner on the far western edge was the cabin she had been looking for – the one she would hide in until things died down. She pulled around back and parked the car in the trees. After retrieving the key, she went in the back door.
As she walked in, her senses were flooded with memories. Aside from a thick layer of dust, nothing had changed since she was last here. Even a slight smell of cedar mixed with gardenias still permeated the air. As she walked through the house she held the images from the past at bay. Now was not the time to think back. There would be time for that later.
The air inside was more stifling than out, so she opened all the windows and turned on the fans. She decided a hot breeze was better than no breeze at all. She ran a cool bath to scrub off any evidence that may still be on her body. She found some clothes left behind long ago and was grateful in this moment that she hadn’t grown much over the years.
She then went and sat on the couch, and knowing that sleep would elude her, she waited. When the sky brought forth the first hint of the morning sun, she picked up the phone and made a call.
“Jack…it’s done,” was all she said before placing the phone back on its cradle.
**to be continued**