“I’m really sorry honey, she’s in a better place now.” Mrs.Smith, our next door neighbor, sympathetically said as she laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. I gave her a shaky smile whispered a soft thanks before she began descending down the steps of the church.
As I stood there at the top of the steps, I watched as all funeral attendees made their way back to their homes and normal routines. For them, this was a minor event in their lives, something they would easily forget in weeks time. But for us, this would become our new normal.
A life without our mother. Our rock.
I let out a deep breath as I made my way towards the top of the stairs before taking a seat on the cement stair. A slight ache resonated within my chest as I glanced down at my phone screen; a photograph of my mother and I’s smiling faces staring back at me. It was as if my eyes had lost the ability to produce any more tears as I looked down the timeless memory. All that was left was a hole in my heart that none other than my mother could fill. I couldn’t possibly fathom how my world had changed in a matter of hours. Everything I had thought I’d known wasn’t true. I had so many questions yet nobody to answer them. All I wanted was to be in my mother’s warm embrace. To forget everything that had happened and to wake up from whatever nightmare we were in.
I could hear the clicking of heels behind me before I felt someone occupy the seat beside me. Wrapping an arm around my shoulder, Marissa rested her head against mine as her eyes remained glued to the phone screen, “It doesn’t seem real you know? It feels like I’m stuck in a bad dream.” Marissa whispered as she wiped her eyes. I could feel my lips quivering and a burning sensation in my throat as I held back a cry. I had never seen Marissa so broken in my life. She had always been the braver one. The one you’d never see having a bad day. Yet here we were, living a tragedy we couldn’t have imagined.
Hugging Marissa closer to me, words failed as we simply sat in silence. I didn’t know how many minutes had passed of us simply sitting outside the church when our lawyer called Marissa. She had been in contact with us a couple days following the death of our mother and needed to meet with us to discuss legal matters and my mother’s will.
Grabbing any of our belongings, both Marissa and I made our way towards a small coffee shop near my high school. Barbra, our lawyer, was a thirty six year old woman with warm brown eyes and bouncy curls. She had a soft smile on her face as we made our way towards the booth she was seated on inside the shop.
Sliding into the opposite side of the booth with Marissa, Barbara slid over two coffee cups in our direction before she began speaking, “I can’t imagine how tough these past few days have been, and I’m sorry that I asked to meet so soon, but it is necessary for me to inform you of what is to happen next.” She said as she took a sip of her coffee. Furrowing my brows at her words, I glanced over at Marissa who wore the same puzzled expression.
“Please continue” Marissa hesitantly said as she wrapped her fingers tightly around her cup. I could feel the anxiety rolling off her in waves and took her hand in mine as we turned to face Barbra who wore a solemn expression on her face.
“Hope, as you know, your mother is not biologically related to you. Although you were under her care for the past seventeen years, your biological parents are alive and well.” She stated as I pulled my bottom lip into my mouth. I was afraid of what she would say next and took a deep breath as I waited for her to continue, “They have heard of the passing of your mother and are devastated, however, they are ecstatic to welcome you into their lives.” Barbra said as I furrowed my brows and slowly shook my head.
Releasing my hand from Marissa I ran a hand through my hair as I tried to take deep breaths to calm my erratic heart.
Welcome me into their lives?
Over my dead body.
I refused to return back to the family that had given me up so easily.
My family was here. With Marissa.
“No. I refuse to go back. I want to stay here with Marissa.” I strictly said as I glanced over at Marissa who looked shocked at the news. Her lips were placed in a tight line and I could tell she was holding back tears.
“I understand it is a lot to take in, however, Marissa is still a college student who resides in the dorms. She does not have the financial capability to care for you.” Barbara sympathetically said as I continued to shake my head in frustration.
This couldn’t be happening.
I had just lost my mother. I couldn’t lose Marissa too.
“What if I move back home? Can Hope stay with me?” Marissa finally asked as I stared hopefully at Barbara who once again gave a pitiful smile as she clasped her hands together on the table.
“Hope is a minor and legally, her biological family has the right to decide what happens with her, and as of now, they would love to have you back in their custody.” She said as I dropped my head into my hands. The pain of losing my mother had yet to digest, and here I was, hearing more news that was shattering my world all over again.
The table had fallen dead silent as both Marissa and I attempted to process the news. I felt her hand squeeze mine as a comforting gesture but my eyes remained glued on the table as I tried to gather my thoughts. Before I could utter a word, Barbara slid over a photograph of a smiling family, “This is your family. You have a twin brother named Toby who lives with your mother and father in Boston.”
My eyes remained glued on the unfamiliar faces who smiled at me as I studied everyone in the photograph. My eyes roamed over my biological parents before scanning over my brother who had an uncanny resemblance to me, which was to be expected. He was my twin brother after all.
“They look so much like you.” Marissa whispered from beside me as I remained silent.
We may look alike, but these people didn’t feel like family.
They were nothing but mere strangers.
And I could never make a home in Boston. My home was here with Marissa.
With Nathan and Katie.
With everyone I had grown up with.
Looking up at Barbara, I pushed the photograph back to her before crossing my arms across my chest, “I’m sorry but I can’t go to them. I refuse to. If I can’t stay with Marissa, can I at least stay with someone else here?” I pleaded as she once again shook her head at me.
Releasing a deep sigh, I felt my shoulders sag as I rubbed a hand over my forehead, “Hope, it was your mother’s wish for you to return to them if anything were to happen to her. I’m sorry but there is no other option for you.” Barbara said with finality as I turned to Marissa who blankly stared at me. I could tell she was torn, but we both knew there was no escaping this situation.
“It was mom’s wish.” Marissa softly said as I felt a tear fall from my eye. I watched as she held back tears and plastered a tight smile on her face before she pulled me into her embrace, “We’re gonna be okay.” She whispered into my ear as I pulled her closer to me, knowing nothing would ever be the same again.
Here is the next chapter of Chasing Hope!
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