Hope in a Box - Short Story

@just4him (112907)
Green Bay, Wisconsin
January 10, 2018 2:17pm CST
As I was going through my files on Dropbox when I reset my computer a few days ago, I found many stories I forgot about. They are short stories. Hope in a Box is shy of 2000 words, and emotional as I read and edited it. I don't even know how long ago I wrote this one, but it was from the time I belonged to the Helium site. Here now, is Hope in a Box. HOPE IN A BOX Leigh Henderson looked at the card she found in the bottom of the shoebox. 'Can I pray for you' was written in block letters across the center. What a question. Her thoughts roamed. The house fire, her lost job, the twins. She almost broke down as she stared at the card. How could she talk to anyone about the past year of her life? Her marriage was perfect. Was, that was the operative word. James had been so badly burnt in the fire that he had spent several months in the hospital before he had been transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. He had undergone extensive reconstructive surgery, had to learn to walk again, and take care of himself. When he had finally been coherent enough he had asked about the twins, Jake and Joshua. When he learned they had not survived the fire-. Again, she looked down at the card in her hands. Add the loss of her job on top of what happened. She was destitute. No job, no twins, no place to live, and a husband that almost didn't talk to her when she visited him. Their savings had been used up in the first weeks after the accident. His employment insurance took care of his medical bills. She was assured he still had a job when he recovered sufficiently to work again. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was a new place to live, daily necessities, and her daily trips to the rehab hospital that had exhausted their finances. She looked at the card in her hand and recalled the immediate generosity of friends, family, even her employment before she had been let go, and his, but that had soon disappeared. Her employer wasn’t as generous as his. She had been called into the office about a month after the accident and was told that she either needed to be at work or she would be fired. She had tried to explain James’ condition was critical and her place was with him. They said they understood, but they didn’t really. She was fired. What would she do? Where would she go? She couldn’t look for another job as long as James needed her. She spent her day at the hospital. She had read to him, talked to him about everything except the fact she had lost her job, and except for the one time when he had become conscious of his surroundings, and asked about the twins, she had never mentioned them. It was too painful for her. They had been asleep. The smoke alarm woke them around two in the morning. The house was engulfed in flames. Nearby neighbors had called the fire department. She had tried to get to the twins’ room. It was next to theirs, but a wall of fire blocked the way. James insisted she go out the window while he got the twins. The fireman was there for her. She wanted to go with James, but he wouldn’t allow it. It was the last she saw of him until the firemen had brought him out along with the twins. She had gone to the firemen who had her babies in their arms. She didn’t recognize them. They were charred from the fire, their beautiful blond hair gone. Their faces marred by the ravages of the fire. She had crumpled to the ground at the loss of her children. Inconsolable, she had looked up again when another fireman had brought her husband out of the house. He looked just as bad as the twins, but he was still alive, barely. The ambulance had taken them away from it all. The sirens screamed into the night, while at the same time she screamed inside at the loss of her life, her perfect life. She had a husband who loved her, beautiful twin boys that looked just like him, jobs that gave them a comfortable lifestyle. Perfect, and gone, all of it, in the blink of an eye. The card grabbed her attention again as she wiped the tears from her eyes. She couldn’t talk to anyone about her life. She had seen how much the community cared. Anger clouded her eyes as she recalled her last moments at her job. No one had expressed any words of hope or comfort for what she had gone through. The only thing they cared about was the job. She was just another employee in a company of employees who clocked in at eight in the morning and punched out at five at night. The work wasn’t hard. One part of her was glad to be away from it, the other part of her wondered how she would survive. The memories of that horrible night were forever etched in her mind, along with the funeral service just a few days later. Their pastor had given a moving service. Afterwards he had promised the church would be there if she needed them, and if she ever needed to talk about what had happened, because it would be necessary to talk. It was dangerous to keep everything bottled up. She had thanked him for his consideration, and the service, and then went back to her husband who was on life support. It was surprising he had survived. He looked a lot like the twins, charred almost beyond recognition. She was told the twins didn’t have a chance because of their age, while her husband had a chance, and as long as there was a chance she would sit beside him, talk to him, pray with him, though that had dwindled after a while. There was no change in his condition. Then there were the surgeries as soon as he came off life support. There was a small hope he would recover and be his old self. Again, she prayed, but mostly she left that to their pastor when he came to visit. It wasn’t like she didn’t know God. They had gone to church every Sunday. The pastor had dedicated the twins the Sunday before. She stared at the card. Can I pray for you? There was no name, just the name of the organization it had come from along with the phone number and address on the back if she decided to mail it. She had no intention. Again, the memories overwhelmed her. She had gone to their pastor, sat in his office and listened while he tried to counsel her about what had happened and why. Why had there been a fire that had taken her boys away from her? Why was her husband in the hospital? Why was her perfect life snatched from her? She recalled the day the fire chief had visited her in the hospital. They had found the reason for the fire, and where it had started. Faulty wiring when the house had been built. The fire had started in the basement directly below the twins’ room. They didn’t have a chance. She had stored some newspapers in the basement for the Boy Scout drive, fuel for the fire. It was her fault. She couldn’t tell anyone about the reason why. She kept everything bottled inside just as her pastor had said would happen, and focused on James. He needed her. She needed him. Her pastor urged her to talk about it, but she couldn't. It wasn’t long before she felt like a burden to the church and stopped going altogether. She had learned God was all right when everything was going good, but have any kind of difficulty and he was nowhere to be found. Then it hit her. Who had sent her the shoebox? In everything that had happened she didn’t recall any point where she had asked for that kind of help for Christmas. She had not even heard of the organization that sent out the shoeboxes for needy people. Again, tears coursed down her cheeks. It would have been the twins first Christmas. They would have been almost a year old with their birthdays in January. The fire had been in March. Why God? What have I got to say to you? Can you give me back my life, my children, my husband, my marriage? Can you put things back the way they were? Can you? She wanted to throw the card away along with the shoebox. What good was anything in the box anyway? Yes, she could use the shampoo, and the razor would be good for James. The one at the rehab hospital didn’t work all that well. In fact, everything in the box were items she needed. Who knew what she needed? She knew the boxes were anonymous. She looked at each object in the box again: shampoo, men’s razor, mittens, earmuffs, scarf. Other than the razor there wasn’t anything for her husband. It was all for her. At the moment he didn’t need anything else. It would be at least another month before he was able to go home. To where? The apartment had lasted two months until all the money and good will had been exhausted. At the moment her residence was the local homeless shelter. Maybe it was from someone at the shelter or the rehab hospital. She couldn’t imagine whom though. Everyone she knew or met was busy with their own lives, and didn’t want to be bothered with hers. She put everything back in the box, as she did so another envelope slid from the folds of the scarf. It had her name on it. The box was no accident. She picked up the envelope. It was heavy. She carefully opened it and a key dropped into her lap. The note accompanying it said: ‘Yours for as long as you need it.’ It was a house key. The address was also on the sheet of paper. She recognized it for a very nice part of town. Who could be that generous? God, do you really care about me? What’s next? A job? There was a woman’s closet where she could get nice work clothes. Hope renewed. Maybe. She would talk to James. She held the card in front of her, and a stirring of hope surged through her. She would call. It could help. Someone did care. She had kept everything bottled up for far too long. She wiped the tears from her face, and went to the phone. James was in therapy. It would be good to talk to somebody. She dialed the number, scared and nervous at the same time. “Hope International, Lisa speaking.” “Lisa, my name is Leigh Henderson. I got one of your boxes and I’m calling.” Later Leigh had a smile on her face and hope. She had something to tell James when he returned from therapy. She was wrong. God did care. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but things already looked a lot better. A month later, she walked into her new home with James. She had returned to church after the phone call. She had made some crucial decisions, decisions that had changed her life. Gone was the hopelessness that had clouded every day. In its place hope resided. She had begun immediately to pray in a way she had never prayed before. Why? She had met God. She found out he really did care about her. It wouldn’t be easy, but with perseverance they would be all right. Thanks for reading. Image courtesy of Pixabay
11 people like this
11 responses
• Philippines
11 Jan
That's the longest story I've ever read. Sorry I didn't get to finish all of them.
3 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
11 Jan
I'm sorry you found it too long and couldn't finish it.
2 people like this
@DianneN (76157)
• United States
10 Jan
Wonderful story and thanks for sharing it. You have such a way with words!
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
11 Jan
Thank you. I'm so glad you liked it.
2 people like this
@DianneN (76157)
• United States
15 Jan
1 person likes this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
15 Jan
1 person likes this
@Courtlynn (64283)
• United States
10 Jan
Wow, that's a very good story. You're really great at writing and story telling, Valerie.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
10 Jan
Thank you. I appreciate your saying so.
1 person likes this
@Courtlynn (64283)
• United States
10 Jan
2 people like this
@amadeo (63856)
• United States
10 Jan
You do a good job in your writing t here.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
10 Jan
Thank you for saying so.
@amadeo (63856)
• United States
10 Jan
@just4him Good night Val
2 people like this
@BelleStarr (37614)
• Portland, Connecticut
12 Jan
A very compelling short story, you pack a lot into a few words. Very well done.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
12 Jan
Thank you. It was a time in my life when I was trying something new - short stories. It was quite a challenge for me to write them.
2 people like this
• United States
12 Jan
Really sad story, and wish everyone could find a home in the end.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
12 Jan
It was sad. I don't know why my short stories seem to be sad ones, but a few of them are, not all.
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (121038)
• Bunbury, Australia
10 Jan
That's a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it with us.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
11 Jan
You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it.
2 people like this
@MsBooklover (3818)
• United States
10 Jan
I am not very good at reading sad stories, but I wanted to read it. It had a fine ending. It was very well written, and I love the title.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
10 Jan
Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.
2 people like this
@TRBRocks420 (75435)
• Banks, Oregon
10 Jan
That is pretty awful, but yes we just have to know God does care regardless of what terrible thing happens.
2 people like this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
10 Jan
Yes, we do need to know God cares.
2 people like this
@silvermist (20108)
• India
16 Jan
It is a very good story.It is not long.The title was also apt.
1 person likes this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
16 Jan
Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.
1 person likes this
@silvermist (20108)
• India
16 Jan
@just4him I am sure you have so many short stories waiting .
1 person likes this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
16 Jan
@silvermist I do have quite a few of them.
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (66020)
• Roseburg, Oregon
13 Jan
What a nice ending to this story. I enjoyed reading it.
1 person likes this
@just4him (112907)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
13 Jan
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.