Holder grimaces and runs his hands through his hair. “Sky…” he says. He can’t even look at me. His expression is torn and confused and he’s…he’s been lying to me. He’s holding something back and he’s scared to tell me.

He knows me. How the hell does he know me and why hasn’t he told me?

I suddenly feel sick. I rush past him and open the door across the hall, which happens to be a bathroom, thank God. I lock the door behind me and throw the framed picture on the counter, then fall straight to the floor.

The images and memories start inundating my mind like the floodgates have just been lifted. Memories of him, of her, of the three of us together. Memories of us playing, me eating dinner at their house, me and Les being inseparable. I loved her. I was so young and so small and I don’t even know how I knew them, but I loved them. Both of them. The memory is coupled by the grief of now knowing the Lesslie I knew and loved as a little girl is gone. I suddenly feel sad and depressed that she’s gone, but not for me. Not for Sky. I’m sad for the little girl I used to be and somehow her grief over the loss of Lesslie is emerging through me.

How have I not known? How did I not remember him the first time I saw him?

“Sky, open the door. Please.”

I fall back against the wall. It’s too much. The memories and the emotions and the grief…it’s too much to absorb all at once.

“Baby, please. We need to talk and I can’t do it from out here. Please, open the door.”

He knew. The first time he saw me at the grocery store, he knew. And when he saw my bracelet…he knew I got it from Lesslie. He saw me wearing it and he knew.

My grief and confusion soon turn to anger and I push myself up off the floor and walk swiftly to the bathroom door. I unlock it and swing it open. His hands are on either side of the doorframe and he’s looking directly at me, but I feel like I don’t even know who he is. I don’t know what’s real between us and what’s fake anymore. I don’t know what feelings of his are from his life with me or the life with that little girl I used to be.

I need to know. I need to know who she was. Who I was. I swallow my fear and release the question that I’m afraid I already know the answer to. “Who’s Hope?”

His hardened expression doesn’t change, so I ask him again, but louder this time.

“Who the hell is Hope?”

He keeps his eyes locked on mine and his hands placed firmly on the doorframe, but he can’t answer me. For some reason he doesn’t want me to know. He doesn’t want me to remember who I was. I take a deep breath and try to fight back the tears. I’m too scared to say it, because I don’t want to know the answer.

“Is it me?” I ask, my voice shaking and full of trepidation. “Holder…am I Hope?”

He lets out a quick breath at the same time he looks up at the ceiling, almost as if he’s struggling not to cry. He closes his eyes and lays his forehead against his arm, then takes a long, deep breath before looking back at me. “Yes.”

The air around me grows thick. Too thick to take in. I stand still, directly in front of him, unable to move. Everything grows quiet except for what’s inside my head. There are so many thoughts and questions and memories and they’re all trying to take over and I don’t know if I need to cry or scream or sleep or run.

I need to go outside. I feel like Holder and the bathroom and the whole damn house are closing in on me and I need to go outside so there’s room to get everything out of my head. I just want it all out.

I shove past him and he tries to grab my arm, but I yank it out of his grasp.

“Sky, wait,” he yells after me. I keep running until I reach the stairs and I descend them as fast as I can, taking two at a time. I can hear him following me, so I speed up and my foot lands further than I intend for it to. I lose my grip on the rail and fall forward, landing on the floor at the base of the stairs.

“Sky!” he yells. I try to pull myself up but he’s on his knees with his arms around me before I even have the chance. I push against him, wanting him to let go of me so I can just go outside. He doesn’t budge.

“Outside,” I say, breathless and weak. “I just need outside. Please, Holder.”

I can feel him struggling from within, not wanting to release me. He reluctantly pulls me away from his chest and looks down at me, searching my eyes. “Don’t run, Sky. Go outside, but please don’t leave. We need to talk.”

I nod and he releases me, then helps me stand up. When I walk out the front door and onto the lawn, I clasp my hands together behind my head and inhale a huge, cold breath of air. I tilt my head back and look up at the stars, wishing more than anything that I was up there and not down here. I don’t want the memories to keep coming, because with each confusing memory comes an even more confusing question. I don’t understand how I know him. I don’t understand why he kept it from me. I don’t understand how my name could have been Hope, when all I’ve ever remembered being called was Sky. I don’t understand why Karen would tell me that Sky was my birth name if it isn’t. Everything I thought I understood after all these years is unraveling, revealing things that I don’t want to know. I’m being lied to, and I’m terrified to know what it is that everyone’s trying to keep from me.

I stand outside for what feels like forever, attempting to sort through this alone when I have no idea what it is I’m even trying to sort through. I need to talk to Holder and I need to know what he knows, but I’m hurt. I don’t want to face him, knowing he’s been hiding this secret all along. It makes everything that I thought was happening between us nothing but a façade.

I’m emotionally spent and have had all the revelations I can take for one night. I just want to go home and go to bed. I need to sleep on this before we go into the fact of why he didn’t just tell me he knew me as a child. I don’t understand why it was something he even thought he should keep from me.

I turn around and walk back toward the house. He’s standing in the doorway, watching me. He steps aside to let me back in and I walk straight to the kitchen and open the refrigerator. I grab a bottle of water and open it, then take several gulps. My mouth is dry and I never did get the water he said he was getting for me earlier.

I set the bottle down on the bar and look at him. “Take me home.”

He doesn’t object. He turns around and grabs his keys off the entryway table, then motions for me to follow him. I leave the water on the bar and silently follow him to the car. When I climb inside, he backs out of the driveway and pulls onto the road without speaking a word.

We pass my turn-off and it’s apparent that he has no intention to take me home. I glance over at him and his eyes are focused hard on the road in front of him. “Take me home,” I say again.

He looks at me with a determined expression. “We need to talk, Sky. You have questions, I know you do.”

I do. I have a million questions I need to ask, but I was hoping he would let me sleep on it so I could sort them out and try to answer as many of them as I could myself. But it’s obvious he doesn’t care what I prefer at this point. I reluctantly take off my seatbelt and turn in my seat, leaning with my back against the door to face him. If he doesn’t want to give me time to let this soak in, I’ll just lay all of my questions on him at once. But I’m making it fast because I want him to take me home.

“Fine,” I say stubbornly. “Let’s get this over with. Why have you been lying to me for two months? Why did my bracelet piss you off so much that you couldn’t speak to me for weeks? Or why you didn’t just say who you really thought I was the day we met at the grocery store? Because you knew, Holder. You knew who I was and for some reason you thought it would be funny to string me along until I figured it all out. Do you even like me? Was this game you’ve been playing worth hurting me more than I’ve ever been hurt in my life? Because that’s what happened,” I say, furious to the point that I’m shaking.

I finally give in to the tears because it’s just one more thing that’s trying to get out and I’m tired of fighting them. I wipe them away from my cheeks with the back of my hand and lower my voice. “You hurt me, Holder. So bad. You promised you would only ever be honest with me.” I’m not raising my voice anymore. In fact, I’m talking so quietly that I’m not even sure he can hear me. He keeps staring at the road like the asshole that he is. I squeeze my eyes shut and fold my arms across my chest, then fall back into my seat. I stare out the passenger window and curse Karma. I curse Karma for bringing this hopeless boy into my life just so he could ruin it.

When he continues to drive without responding to a single word I’ve said, I can do nothing but let out a small, pathetic laugh. “You really are hopeless,” I mutter.

Saturday, April 17th, 1999 2:30 p.m.

“I need to pee,” she giggles. We’re crouched down under their porch, waiting for Dean to come find us. I like playing hide and seek, but I like to be the one hiding. I don’t want them to know that I can’t do the counting thing yet like they always ask me to do. Dean always tells me to count to twenty when they go hide, but I don’t know how. So I just stand with my eyes closed and pretend I’m counting. Both of them are already in school and I can’t go until next year, so I don’t know how to count as good as they do.

“He’s coming,” she says, crawling backward a few feet. The dirt under the porch is cold, so I’m trying not to touch it with my hands like she is, but my legs are hurting.

“Les!” he yells. He walks closer to the porch and head straight for the steps. We’ve been hiding a long time and he looks like he’s tired of looking for us. He sits down on the steps, which are almost right in front of us. When I tilt my head, I can look right up at his face. “I’m tired of looking!”

I turn around and look at Lesslie to see if she’s ready to run to base. She shakes her head no and holds her finger to her lips.

“Hope!” he yells, still sitting on the steps. “I give up!” He looks around the yard, then sighs quietly. He mumbles and kicks at the gravel under his foot and it makes me laugh. Lesslie punches me on the arm and tells me to be quiet.

He starts laughing, and at first I think it’s because he hears us, but then I realize he’s just talking to himself.

“Hope and Les,” he says, quietly. “Hopeless.” He laughs again and stands up. “You hear that?” he yells, cupping his hands around his mouth. “The two of you are hopeless!”

Hearing him turn our names into a word makes Lesslie laugh and she crawls out from under the porch. I follow her and stand up as soon as Dean turns around and sees her. He smiles and looks at both of us, our knees covered in dirt with cobwebs in our hair. He shakes his head and says it again. “Hopeless.”

Saturday, October 27th, 2012 11:20 p.m.

The memory is so vivid; I have no idea how it’s just now coming to me. How I could see his tattoo day after day and hear him say Hope and how he talks about Les, yet still not remember? I reach over the seat and grab his arm, then pull his sleeve up. I know it’s there. I know what it says. But this is the first time I’m looking at it, knowing what it actually means.

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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