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[story] Adventures of Hannah episode 8

Episode 8

The following evening Ben and Ruby went

to

Hannah ‘s. He stayed behind reconciling

inventory when he heard the front door

open.

He glanced up to see Ruby standing in the

doorway to the living room, her face twisted

with emotion.

“She ‘s going, ” she said.

“She ‘s leaving next week! ” she ran across

the

room into his hands, pressing her face into

his

neck.

He closed his arms around her and cupped

the

back of her head with his hand.

“Its okay, Rubes. ”

“I don’t want her to go.”

He didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t

make

promises on Hannah’s behalf. He had no

idea

when she planned to come back, or if she

planned to come back at all. He suspected

Hannah didn’t know herself. That was part

of

the appeal of the open road.

He heard the sound of the front door

opening

again and a couple of seconds later Ben

entered

the living room, Hannah hard on his heels.

She

looked stricken where she saw Ruby in his

arms.

“Oh, man, ” Ben said

“She ‘ll be alright, ” Joe said to Hannah. “I

think

you just took her by surprise. ”

“I wish I could stay, sweetheart. But this is

something I ‘ve dreamed of doing ever since

I

was your age. I ‘ve been collecting maps

and

tourist guides for years. Look, its not like I

will

be gone forever. I ‘ll come back. My mom

lives

right next door — I have to come back or

she ‘ll

kill me.”

He glanced down and saw that Ruby was

smiling a little now.

“Will you send me postcards? ”

“Every week,” Hannah said. I promise.

Ruby walked across the room and wrapped

her

arms around Hannah ‘s waist, laying her

head

against Hannah ‘s hip. “Its going to be

weird

without you.”

Hannah blinked rapidly. “Yeah.”

Joe became aware of Ben standing to one

side,

the expression on his face an odd mixture

of

envy and scorn as he watched Hannah

embrace his sister. Joe had a sudden

memory

of Beth sitting on the couch, Ben snuggled

in

her arms as she read him a book. She ‘d

been

warm and affectionate, kisses and cuddles

before bedtime, tickle wrestling on the living

room rug.

Ben missed being held by his mother, just

as

Ruby clearly craved a woman ‘s touch. For

a

moment Joe felt very heavy with regret.

There

were so many losses he could never hope to

replace, too many gaps in their lives for

him to

even come close to filling them all.

“I was thinking that maybe before you go I

could go for a ride around the block on

your

bike, Ruby said.” She kept her voice clearly

innocent, but she was asking.

“You are such a baby, Ruby. No way is Dad

going to let you go on a motorbike, ” Ben

chipped in.

“It was worth a try.” Ruby ‘s grin was

cheeky.

“Yes, it was,” Joe agreed. “Now who wants

a hot

chocolate before bed? ”

“Me.” Ruby said, twisting away from

Hannah

and racing for the kitchen. Ben followed

suit.

Joelooked to Hannah. “Can we tempt you?”

“Thanks, but I ‘d better go. Maybe another

time. ”

“Sure. He followed Hannah to the door.

“I ‘m leaving next weekend. Saturday

precisely.”

“Okay ”

A long silence ………

“I ‘d better go, ” she said.

“Okay “.

When she turned away, her movement were

jerky, almost as though it has taken an

effort to

drag herself away.

He closed the door after her, staring at the

wooden surface blindly.

One more week, then she ‘d be gone.

D–n.

**********??**********

The following friday night, Hannah checked

her

camping gear one last time. Her mother

stood

to one side of the garage, arms crossed

tightly

over her body.

“I can’t believe you’re really going. You’ve

talked about this for so many years, and

now

this is finally it, ” her mom said.

“Yep.”

“What time are you leaving tomorrow? ”

“Ten.”

Her mother pressed her lips together, but

Hannah could see she was close to tears.

“Mom, I ‘ll call every week, I promise. ”

“Alright. I know. Its just going, to be lonely

without you here.” She sighed. “Is anything

happening with Joe or not? ”

“He ‘s got two kids to consider and I ‘m

hitting

the road. What do you think? ”

“I think you should hang around and see

what

happens. ”

“I can’t. What if it does not work out

again?

What if I ‘m not the woman Joe thinks I am

or

something else goes wrong? Am I supposed

to

pick myself up and dust myself off all over

again? ”

“You’re scared. ”

“Of course I ‘m scared. I ‘d be silly if I

wasn’t.

We’re supposed to learn from past

mistakes,

aren’t we? ”

Hannah ‘s mother smiled sadly. “Loving

someone is always a risk, sweetheart.

That’s

why its so exciting and terrifying all at the

same

time.”

“Right now I ‘m willing to pass on the

excitement if it means I don’t have to put

up

with the terrifying. ”

“If you could see the way Joe looks at you

when

you’re not watching ……..”

Hannah ‘s chest tightened. She took a deep

breadth. “Mom, I don’t want to talk about

it. I

‘ve made my decision, I ‘ve said my

goodbyes. I

‘m leaving tomorrow. ”

Her mother flinched and Hannah knew

she’d

hurt her feelings.

“Okay. Well, I ‘ll leave you to it and I ‘ll see

you

in the morning. ”

“Mom……”

“Its okay, Hannah, I understand. ”

Hannah kissed her good night then her

mother

disappeared into the house and she was

once

again alone.

She checked a few more last minute things

then went in to the house. Satisfied she had

everything in order, she crawled into bed.

She

rolled onto her side and stared into the

darkness.

I wish he ‘d never kissed me. I wish he was

just

a man with two kids and a dead wife who

happened to live next door. She thought …..

But Joe had kissed her, and he ‘d become

more

than her neighbor. A lot more.

“So silly, ” she muttered.

Eventually she fell asleep but woke up with

her

stomach tense with nerves and she had to

force

herself to eat a decent breakfast. As ten o

‘clock

drew closer she grew more and more

nervous,

her gaze darting to her watch every few

minutes.

Ruby had made a point of saying she’d be

over

at ten to see her off. Hannah was dreading

saying goodbye to her little buddy. She was

also terrified Ruby would be accompanied

by

her father. She didn’t trust herself not to

say or

do something embrassing and revealing.

Like

throw herself at him and ask him to tell her

to

stay.

She was in the garage when Ruby appeared,

Joe was with her, and Ben. A lump formed

in

the back of Hannah’s throat.

“Hey, ” she said. Somehow her voice

sounded

normal.

“We bought you a going away present, ”

Ruby

said.

“You didn’t have to do that. ” she looked to

Joe,

frowning.

Joe lifted a shoulder. “Don’t look at me. It

was

Ruby and Ben’s idea.”

“Here, ” Ruby said, holding out a neatly

wrapped parcel. She moved closer and

Hannah

could feel the little girl watching and

waiting for

her reaction. Hannah eased the tape free of

the

paper and saw what they bought her : a

pair of

beautiful leather motorcycle gloves.

“Thank you. These are wonderful. ”

Ruby looked at her brother. “You were right,

she said, resigned. She turned back to

Hannah

to explain. “I wanted to get you perfume but

Ben thought you’d prefer these.”

“Perfume would have been lovely but these

are

perfect, Ben. Thank you.”

“It was just an idea, that’s all.” Ben said

with

teen discomfort.

“A great idea. I love them. They’re miles

better

than my old gloves.”

Hannah sank to one knee and opened her

arms

and Ruby stepped into them for one last

hug.

Ruby sniffed and nodded her head. With a

sigh

she stepped back, using her forearm to wipe

her eyes.

Hannah glanced at Ben but his body

language

told her he wouldn’t welcome a hug the

way his

sister had. She held out her clenched hand

instead and they bumped fists.

She flicked another look at Joe. He was

staring

at the ground. There was no way she was

hugging or kissing him in front of the kids.

Because she didn’t know how to say

goodbye to

him, she zipped her jacket and reached for

her

new gloves.

“I guess I ‘d better get this show on the

road.”

Hannah flexed her hands in her new gloves,

smiling to show Ben and Ruby how much

she

appreciated them.

She was aware that she and Joe had barely

exchanged a word. She had no idea what

he

was thinking or feeling, if the uncertainty

and

regret she felt was one sided or shared.

But she’d made her decision. As she’d told

her

mother last night, she wasn’t prepared to

gamble with her heart again. There was

nothing

to do but look forward.

Hannah turned the key to start the bike,

she

twisted and the bike rolled out of the

garage

and into the street. She paused for a

moment,

one foot on the ground, and glanced over

her

shoulder. She lifted her hand in a last

farewell.

Her mother came out of the house, mopping

at

her tears with a wad of tissues. Ben stood

off to

one side, a frown on his face. Ruby had

turned

her face into her fathers belly, her arms

wrapped around his waist. Joe’s attention

was

on his daughter. He didn’t so much as

glance

up.

She turned away eased the bike off down

the

street. She told herself not to look back

again,

but she couldn’t resist a glance in the

rearview

mirror.

Her mother was turning towards the house,

but

Joe and Ruby and Ben still stood watching

her.

For the first time she saw emotion on Joe’s

face

— disappointment, frustration, regret. Then

the

road demanded her attention and she

turned

the corner and they were gone.

Joe went over and over those last few

minutes

with Hannah during the following weeks. He

should have said something. Given her his

best

wishes. Made a joke, at the very least.

Instead,

he’d stood there and let her ride away.

He told himself it was for the best. Safer.

Easier.

But when he came home at night and saw

the

garage door open, he remembered what it

had

been like to feel how soft her skin was and

how

kind she’d been to his children.

For the first time in two years Beth was

absent

from his dreams. There was only Hannah,

her

body firm and warm under his hands, her

taste

in his mouth. Teasing him, then walking

away.

Or staring at him expectantly, waiting for

him

to say or do the one thing that would make

her

stay.

The first postcard arrived on the wednesday

after she left. Hannah wrote that the

weather

was fine. She missed Ruby and her new

gloves

were the best she’d ever owned. Lastly, she

asked Ruby to say hello to everyone for her.

Ruby read it aloud three times before

mounting

it on a bulletin board on her bedroom wall.

The second postcard arrived a week after

the

first. Ruby pressed another pin into the

map

and taped to the board in her room.

Joe told himself that soon he would stop

thinking about Hannah. They’d had one

date

and shared a handful of kisses. It was silly

to be

so hung up on someone and something

that

had never really happened.

But it seems he was destined to be silly. He

wanted her, and her being gone didn’t seem

to

make a D–n bit of difference to that fact.

**********??**********

Three weeks after her departure from home,

Hannah stood on a beach in the Northern

Australia. A strong breeze blew her hair off

her

face and pressed her clothes against her

body.

She told herself how lucky she was to be

here,

seeing this, experiencing this moment.

After a few minutes, she started back to the

campground where she’d pitched her tent

last

night. The beach would soon be filled with

tourists and locals. If she wanted to, she

could

put on her swimsuit and take a towel and a

book down to the water to join them. There

was

no work to get to, no one else’s needs or

desires

to consider. She could lazy the day out but

the

problem was, she didn’t want to. She’d

woken

this morning with Joe’s face in her mind

and

her hands clenching the the fabric of her

sleeping bag. This was supposed to be her

dream, but every day she’d had to remind

herself how lucky she was, how beautiful

the

landscape was and how much she looked

forward to finally seeing all the places

she’d

circled on the map over the years.

Her heart wasn’t in it. That was the truth of

the

matter. Her dream had changed.

Her heart was back fixed on a tall, dark

haired

man with sad eyes and the most incredible

smile in the world.

Every postcard she’d sent to Ruby had

taken

her hours to compose. She’d told Ruby

about

her adventures and the people she’d met.

And

all the while, the only thing she wanted to

write

was : Does he miss me? Does he think

about

me? Does he feel the same way I do?

She stared at her campsite — the tent,

bedroll,

sack of clothing. She thought about the

years

she’d planned this adventure. Then she

knelt

and began to pull the tent pegs from the

ground. Within twenty minutes she had the

tent packed away. Half an hour later her

goods

were once again strapped to the back of her

motorcycle. She didn’t look back as she

rode

out of Townsville Australia .

Posted by on February 15, 2019.

Categories: /Literature/Stories

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