Home > The Best Is Yet to Come(3)

The Best Is Yet to Come(3)
Author: Debbie Macomber

   Oceanside was the perfect place for her to escape, put down roots, and get a fresh start at life. Her desire was to let go of the pains of the past and move forward, breathing in the new and exhaling the past.

   Following the last class of the day, Hope left the classroom and headed toward the office where she had been assigned a small space. Glancing out the window, she saw the football team was on the practice field. She noticed Callie on the sidelines with a few of her friends from the dance team watching the boys do their drills on the grassy field.

   Spencer sat on the bleachers with an open book in his lap, surreptitiously watching Callie. The poor kid was setting himself up for nothing but heartache. Hope hated to have to witness what was sure to follow. She knew there was nothing more she could do unless Spencer sought out her advice.

   After an hour of meeting and talking with a number of students, Hope left for the day. The football team was still on the field. One thing Hope had learned early on was the pride the entire community took in the success of the high school football team.

   One advantage of renting the cottage from Preston and Mellie was that the school was a close walk from home. Because she had errands to run, Hope had driven that morning. These errands were admittedly a delay tactic for what awaited her at the cottage.

   After stopping off at the grocery store and the cleaner, she headed back. The two-bedroom house had come furnished but was small. Still, it had far more space than the studio apartment she’d rented in Los Angeles. Although the functional furniture was outdated, for the most part, it wasn’t an eyesore. Whoever had lived here previously had taken good care of the property. With a few minor changes, she could make the cottage homey and comfortable. However, that meant unpacking the boxes that remained behind the closed door of the small guest bedroom.

   The room she’d avoided opening from the day she’d moved to Oceanside.

   Hope didn’t need anyone to tell her why she kept those boxes safely tucked away and out of sight. Seeing how much she’d lost, it made perfect sense. Those packing boxes contained the reminders of all the pain and heartache she’d suffered.

   Determined to move forward no matter how difficult, she delayed just long enough to put the milk and cottage cheese in the refrigerator and stack the frozen entrées in the freezer.

   Walking into her bedroom, she hung up the jacket she’d collected from the dry cleaner. Once in the hallway, she faced the closed guest bedroom door, took in a deep breath, and turned the handle before moving into the room.

   The boxes were stacked three and four high against the wall, right where she’d left them. She stood on the other side of the single bed with the rose bedspread that reminded her of her grandmother’s small flower garden.

   For a long moment, Hope stared at the wall, gathering her resolve.

   “This is ridiculous,” she said aloud, to convince herself it was time.

   Reaching for the top one, she set it down on the shag carpet, and with a burst of energy pried open the top. Peering into the cardboard box, she stared at the contents and swallowed hard.

   Talk about leaping into the fire. Inside the very first box was all the pain she’d hoped to forget.

   On the very top, carefully covered in bubble wrap, was the photo of her twin brother, Hunter, in his army Ranger uniform. Even before she removed the protective covering, she could see Hunter’s serious expression, while his dark eyes, so like her own, sparkled with pride. He’d been proud to be Airborne, proud to serve his country. Hunter had always been fearless and headstrong. It was only natural that he’d think of jumping out of a plane, thousands of feet aboveground, as being a thrill when the very thought terrified Hope. Twins, so different and yet so alike. She sensed it was the same with the twins she had in her class. Callie and Ben, both seniors.

   Tears gathered in Hope’s eyes as she held the framed photograph against her heart. Hunter, her precious brother, had paid dearly for his commitment to serve his country. More than a year ago, he’d died a hero in some unpronounceable city in an Afghan desert.

   Along with the moisture that covered her cheeks, familiar anger settled in her chest, tightening to the point that she found it painful to breathe. With every bit of communication between them while he was on duty, she’d pleaded with Hunter to be careful. She’d begged him not to take any unnecessary risks.

   All they had in the world was each other. If she lost Hunter, then she’d be entirely alone in the world. He was all the family she had. All the family she needed. Born as twins, abandoned by their mother, raised by grandparents, Hope and Hunter had always been especially close.

   With tears blurring her vision, Hope returned to her bedroom and set the photo of her twin brother on the dresser. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she turned the frame so she’d see his face first thing every morning, as a reminder that he wouldn’t want her to spend her life grieving.

   The pain of her loss, that sense of abandonment, of being completely on her own, was too much. Hope needed to escape. Grabbing her purse, she headed out again, needing fresh air. She drove around aimlessly for a while, then parked at the beach. Being by the ocean had always calmed her, and if ever there was a time she needed to find peace and acceptance, it was now.

   The tears on her cheeks had dried in the wind that buffeted against her as she left footprints in the wet sand, prints that were washed away by the incoming tide. Gone: just as her twin was forever gone.

   Hoping a latte would help her out of the doldrums, she decided to stop off for one of Willa’s special lattes. The one friend Hope had made since arriving in town had been Willa O’Malley, the owner of Bean There, the small coffee shop close to the beach. She felt a certain kinship with Willa. Most mornings, she stopped by for a latte, preferring a light breakfast before heading to the high school.

   As soon as Hope entered the shop, Willa looked up from the counter and greeted her with an engaging smile of welcome. “I don’t usually see you in the afternoons. What can I get you?”

   Hope ordered the latte and then took a seat by the window, looking out and looking inward, unable to let go of the sadness that had gripped her heart. It didn’t seem possible she’d be able to move on without Hunter in her life. Even now, nearly two years since his death, he was on her mind every day. She felt his loss as keenly as she had when she’d first gotten the news. Against her will, fresh tears filled her eyes. She reached for a napkin and did her best to discreetly wipe away the moisture.

   “Hope?” Willa joined her at the small table. “Is everything all right?”

   The lump in her throat prevented her from answering. She nodded, wanting to assure her friend all was well, and then just as quickly shook her head. “I lost someone close to me,” she finally managed to say, although her words were barely audible. “Some days I wonder if I’ll ever get over his loss.”

   Sitting down across from Hope, Willa stretched her arm over the table and reached for Hope’s hand. “You won’t, not really, they will always be with you, but I can tell you this, the pain eases with time.” Willa’s voice trembled as she spoke, as if she, too, had suffered a devastating loss.

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