Home > The Best Is Yet to Come(4)

The Best Is Yet to Come(4)
Author: Debbie Macomber

   Hope looked up. To this point, no one in Oceanside knew about Hunter or the reason she’d moved from California to Washington. “Hunter was my brother, my twin…the last of my family.”

   “Harper was my sister, so full of fun and life with so much to live for. I miss her dreadfully. The world felt empty without her. For a while I was a mess, but time moves on, and that was what she wanted for me, what she asked of me, and so I did.”

   Their fingers tightened around each other’s, as if holding on to the memories of those they’d loved and lost.

   A few minutes later another customer stopped in, and Willa left, but not before she leaned down and hugged Hope.

   “The pain will always be there, but I promise you that in time, the love you shared will ease the sting and you’ll be able to feel joy again. In the meantime, I’m here whenever you need to talk.”

   Hope closed her eyes and took hold of Willa’s words. Little wonder she’d felt an affinity for the barista.

 

* * *

 

   —

   Hope returned to the cottage, feeling worlds better than she had when she’d left. She wasn’t back more than a few minutes when there was a knock on her front door.

   She knew only a few people in town and wasn’t expecting company. When she answered, she found her landlord, Preston Young, standing on her small porch.

   “Hope.” He said her name, as if that explained his visit.

   She waited, certain there was a reason he’d stopped by.

   “I wanted to let you know that as soon as I have a spare minute, I’ll get around to repairing the railing on this porch and the faucet. I apologize it’s taken me this long.”

   “It’s no problem, Mr. Young.”

   “Preston, please.”

   “All right, Preston.”

   “With the two babies and my work at the shelter, I don’t know where the time goes. Mellie’s been after me to find the leak under the kitchen sink, and heaven knows I’m no plumber.”

   Hope felt sorry for the husband, who clearly had his hands full.

   “We’re desperately in need of volunteers at the shelter,” he added, running a hand down his face, as if the weight of it was a burden he didn’t need.

   As soon as the words left his mouth, he froze and looked directly at her, as if seeing her for the first time.

   “You’re new in town, right?”

   “Yes, a couple months.” He should know, since he was the one who first showed her the cottage.

   “Other than your students, have you had a chance to get acquainted with anyone outside of the school? In the community?”

   Hope wasn’t sure where this conversation was headed. “A few.” She’d visited a few local churches but hadn’t settled on one. The one person she felt she had connected with most strongly was Willa, especially now, knowing what they shared.

   “Would you consider doing volunteer work?” he asked, his eyes full of enthusiasm. “The shelter is full, and a lot of the dogs aren’t getting the attention they need. If you could walk a few of them, a couple times a week, it would be a tremendous help and very much appreciated.”

   “I…” Hope wasn’t sure what to say. When she was a teenager, her grandmother had had the most unfriendly Chihuahua that she’d lavished with attention and love. As far as Hope and Hunter were concerned, Peanut tolerated them.

   “Part of your responsibilities would be to present the animals to prospective pet owners.”

   “I see,” she said, drawing out the sentence. “And this will help introduce me to the community?”

   “Oh, definitely.” Preston smiled, as if this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

   “Can I think about it?” she asked, wanting to give the idea some thought. Her evenings were full, keeping up with her classes. If Preston had asked her brother, Hunter would have leaped at the chance. He’d always been good with animals. Even Peanut, who took to growling any time either of them got too close to their grandmother, had eventually been won over by Hunter.

   “I suppose it could wait until morning,” Preston said, his shoulders sagging, as if accepting defeat.

   “I’ll let you know then,” she said.

   “Sure thing,” he said, and started to return to the house. “And I promise to get that railing squared away first chance I get.”

   “Don’t worry about it,” Hope told him. She was fully capable of pounding a few nails. She’d recognized the problem the first day she’d moved in and knew better than to lean against it or put any weight on it.

 

* * *

 

   —

   Later that evening, after a dinner of an egg salad sandwich and an apple, she graded the pop quiz she’d given to her history class. It didn’t surprise her that Spencer aced the test. Both Ben and Scott failed miserably, and Callie missed only two of the ten questions.

   Hope did her best to make history come to life so her students would feel they knew the men and women in the pages of their textbooks. History was her first love. The computer skills class, on the other hand, was a challenge. Spencer would likely do a better job of teaching it than she did, although she wouldn’t let him know that.

   As she readied for the next school day, Hope shuffled through her closet for what to wear in the morning. As she turned toward her dresser, she caught sight of Hunter’s photograph.

   “Well, what do you think I should do about working at the animal shelter?” she asked him, wishing he could answer. “The only dog I’ve ever spent any time with was Peanut, and you remember what he was like.”

   Hunter continued to stare stoically back at her.

   “Some help you are,” she said, wanting to groan.

 

* * *

 

   —

   Hunter had always loved animals, forever bringing home injured birds or lost kittens. Their grandparents never allowed him to keep any of his finds as pets. It wasn’t until after their grandfather died that Grandma had gotten Peanut, her comfort dog. She’d loved that dog and grieved weeks for him when he died. At the time Hope hadn’t appreciated her grandmother’s loss. Peanut was only a dog. Only later did she understand the significance of her grandmother’s pet. With Peanut gone, a giant hole had developed in her life. With Hunter, the last of Hope’s family was gone. The emptiness and loss of connection ate at her. She was alone in the world, so completely alone. Other than her BFF, Tonya, and a few other friends, if she were to disappear no one would know or care. The starkness of that left her feeling vulnerable and lost.

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