Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Four

Wil waved goodbye to her father as she ran, so focused on Hope that she heard nothing of what he said. Rob watched his usual parting image of her hand, scarf, and coattails bidding him farewell. He swallowed bittersweet memory flavors and reached over to close the car door Wil had left open in her haste.

Wil rushed anxiously, feeling clumsy and unusually noisy compared to the shadow of a person she sought: the elusive and silent Hope. Hope seemed to melt from shuffling groups to winter landscape without solidifying. She was like air, though Wil had heard air make more noise than that when it moved.

Wil’s coat flapped; her scarf swished. Her boots clumped on solid ground, then crunched on brittle snow patches. The inevitable squeak sounded at each left foot clump once the snow’s moisture soaked into her heel. She could do little to move silently; and so, focused on hurrying instead.

Hope had reached the doors to inside when Wil barely snagged the girl’s backpack. “Hope!” Wil managed to gasp as she grasped.

Hope’s shyly smiling face turned around to Wil. She looked expectant, a fact that shocked Wil enough to claim the breath she’d just managed to find for talking.

Hope moved them to the side of the entryway, apart from the oblivious masses entering the school building. She continued to smile at Wil, a twitch of humor playing at the right side of her mouth. “Yes, Wil?” She asked kindly.

“I, well, I wanted to talk to you,” Wil said. She felt unsure how to phrase her question, and suddenly embarrassed at addressing someone she didn’t know well. Jakob often teased Wil for reckless actions such as this.

Hope waited. She appeared trustworthy enough.

“I wanted to ask you about sneaking,” Wil blurted. She glanced at Hope to see how this news would affect her, but Hope had not changed expression. “See, my dad got a letter last night, and I wanted to read it,” Wil finished.

Hope nodded and looked thoughtful. Wil watched her expectantly.

Hope met Wil’s gaze and smiled kindly again. “I can talk to you about the letter, but not until lunchtime,” she said.

The first bell rang, its dull note somewhat deflating the catalytic hope Wil had felt when she saw the girl.

Hope put her small hand on Wil’s coat-clad arm. Her deep brown eyes met Wil’s hazel ones, though they resided in a face much lower than hers. “It’s okay, Wil,” she assured her.

Then, Hope left. Wil caught fleeting glimpses of her between teenagers heading to classes, before remembering she, too, should be heading to class.

She breathed a sigh. Hope had given her something to look forward to.


Continued from Forty-Three.
Keep reading to Forty-Five.

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