The weighted clouds hang in the air. They seem to be resting statically above the earth as the morning sun rises and tries to shine through. Even though you cannot see the sun, you can feel its pressure. As she always does, Hope wakes before the alarm goes off. She glances over at her husband who, of course, is sleeping peacefully. She imagines again, as she often does, what he would do if she were not around anymore. Tom and the kids would get along fine without me, she reasons. They only seem to notice that I am around when they are hurt or need help with something. They just do not realize what all I do for them. Oh well, I will think about it later. Hope rises and puts on her robe. Going into the bathroom, she shuts the door and starts her morning routine.
Here we go again, she thinks as she pours Tom and herself a cup of coffee. It is so exasperating. The kids are already on their way to school without their umbrellas. At least it is not my week to drive the car pool. Here comes Tom. I wonder what list of things he wants me to do for him today?
“Good Morning,” he said while picking up his coffee. “What do you have planned for today?”
Before Hope could answer, he added, “Could you do a few things for me? I need you to run to the Post Office and pick up this package.” He hands her a yellow slip of paper. Then he continues, “I also need my prescription filled at the drug store and this check cashed at the bank. Oh, I need my blue suit from the cleaners too.”
He pecks her on the cheek and starts out the door. He stops, turns around and says, “why don’t we go out for dinner tonight?’
“That sounds great,” she replies.
“Fine. You pick the place and get a sitter. I’ll be home around six.” Then he turns around again and leaves.
She rolls her eyes and continues her routine.
As she gets out of her car at the bank and locks the car door, it immediately starts to rain. She decides to make a dash for the bank instead of retrieving her umbrella. Going through the bank doors, she glances at the clock and sees that it is eleven. I am making rather good time, she thinks as she takes her place in line.
This bank line is endless. As Hope creeps forward in the line, she wonders about her life. What am I doing anyway? I’m just going through the motions. Something is missing. I need a change, something else. Maybe I should leave; Tom and the kids don’t want me. A maid could do what I do. They will do fine alone; I know they will. Hope confirms her decision to leave with a small nod of her head. I better get home and pack while I still have the time she decides.
She gets out of line and as she turns to walk out of the bank, she bumps into something. “I beg your par-“she starts to say.
When she looks up, she sees an ice blue pair of eyes staring at her through a ski mask. She is so caught up in the moment that she does not notice all the yelling and screaming going on around her.
As she regains her senses through the haze, she can hear one of the masked men say, “Just do what we say and no one will get hurt. Get out from behind the counter and come around here with your hands up.”
“Everyone get in this room,” another one yelled out. They usher everyone into the conference room in the back. The exit doors are blocked. The three men dressed in black have machine guns and hand guns. They have taken up their posts and are shouting orders to each other, while they spray-paint the surveillance camera lenses black. Hope believes that this is a fairly well orchestrated plan. The masked men move in sync and everything seems to be rolling right along as they gather in the conference room.
One of the men says, “Listen up. Sit down, be quiet, do what we tell you and no one will get hurt. But if you try to do anything funny, you will be shot.”
Hope begins to calm down and focus her mind on the activity surrounding her, when all of sudden someone grabbed her arm. She looks up at the same ice blue pair of eyes. The masked man yanks her to her feet. “You come with me,” he barks.
“Okay,” Hope gasps as she stumbles forward.
He drags her across the room and tells her, “Take that duffel back on the floor, fill it with the money in the drawers behind the counter and bring it back to me.”
He pushes her to the floor and she lands on the bag. She picks it up as she gets back to her feet, walks around the counter, starts opening drawers and stuffing money into the bag. She looks over at the masked man but all she sees is the gun pointed at her head. Hope starts shaking and finds it hard to swallow. She cannot take her eyes off the gun; she just sees the cold, hard steel mocking her.
Moments later, out of the corner of her eye, she senses a movement under the counter. When Hope glances down, she looks straight into the eyes of a man she recognizes as a guard at the bank. She thinks it must be his day off because he doesn’t have on his uniform. He puts his index finger to his lips while waving his hand in front of him. She continues moving from drawer to drawer. She glances up at the masked man but he doesn’t seem to notice that she paused.
“Hurry up,” he growls.
“I have emptied all the drawers,” she replies.
“Bring the bag to me.”
Hope begins to walk around the counter, but she finds it hard to take her eyes off the gun still pointing at her head. Her hand shakes as she holds out the bag to the masked man.
She hears the guard yell, “Hold it right there and put your weapons down.”
Obviously, in all the commotion, the guard failed to notice that three masked men had entered the bank, not just the two he saw now. Hope just stands there, doesn’t move, knowing she will be shot if she says anything. She takes a step backwards and looks from one man to the other, waiting for an answer to come to her. The two visible masked men put their weapons down and take a step backwards. The security guard walks up beside her and tells her to put the bag down. She complies. Her heart is beating erratically as she takes a deep breath.
“There’s another man somewhere around here,” she whispers.
As his eyes rapidly flash over to her, he asks, “Where?”
“I don’t know,” she squeaks.
The guard’s eyes then flash over to the men as he asks, “Where is he?”
He does not have time to get an answer because the third guy comes strolling around the corner saying, “Everything is secure back here.”
The guard’s eyes start racing as he tries to decide what to do. The masked man looks up and sees what is going on. He grabs his gun. The guard fires a shot at him, but he plunges to the floor and the shot misses him. Instantly, the masked man jumps up and fires a shot at the guard. Hope has no idea what to do when all of this starts, so she just darts to the floor. The bullet whizzes above her head and lands in the wall behind her. Almost immediately, another shot rings out. This time the bullet lands in the security guard. He falls to the floor in a lump that lands him right on top of Hope. Within the next few seconds, the masked men run in on them and point their guns at her face. She just stares at them with wide eyes.
They talk among themselves for a minute. Hope doesn’t move.
“What are we going to do now?” one of them asks.
“See if he is still alive,” another one says.
One of them reaches down and grabs the guard. “He is still breathing,” he announces.
The guard moans as they turn him over. Blood seems to be everywhere. It is on her, on the floor, and of course, all over him. They pick Hope up by the arm, pointing their guns at her.
“Please don’t kill me. I didn’t do anything. I have a family. Please!” She implored.
“We didn’t plan to shoot anyone to begin with. Why did that guard have to try to be a hero?” One of the men asked.
Another one of the masked men chirps in, “As long as you cooperate, you won’t get hurt.”
The other masked man grabs her by the neck and leers at her, “You’re face is too beautiful to be messed up by a bullet.”
She gulps and then tries to shake her head. The masked man releases her throat and then grabs her around the waist. “You want to cooperate, huh? I’ll show you how you can cooperate.”
One of the other men grabbed her arm and pulled her away. “We don’t have time for that now. We need to figure a way out of here now that we’ve been thrown off course. The guard hit the alarm, the bank is surrounded and we need a plan. Cut the bull and let her go.”
They take both the wounded guard and her to the temporary prison where everyone else has been corralled. When they enter the room, gasps and screams begin once the crowd notices that the guard has been shot. The masked men yell above the screams and tell everyone to calm down and be quiet. The men circle to leave, closing and locking the door behind them.
Hope notices how quiet the room seems. It must be sound proof. As Hope tries to calm down everyone in the room and explain, she asks if there is a nurse or a doctor in the room. Of course, just her luck, there isn’t. She looks down at the guard, takes a deep breath and starts hollering out orders.
“Get me some water. Someone give me their shirt. I need lots of shirts. Is there anything in here that we could use as a pillow?” She does not know where these orders are coming from.
She takes his jacket off, locates the bullet wound and places a shirt firmly down on it. Someone finds a pitcher of water and they use it to clean the wound. Hope puts the shirt back down and applies pressure to stop the bleeding. She makes him drink a little water while talking to him, trying to keep him conscious. She starts to ask him questions about himself. He stares up into her eyes and focuses.
He asks, “What happened?”
She tells him what happened and he apologizes for putting her in danger. “That was stupid of me. I’m sorry. Were you hurt?”
“No, I’m fine. A little shook up maybe, but fine.”
He asks, “Are you a doctor?”
“No, I’m just doing the best that I can.”
“You ought to be a doctor, you know”
“That’s what my grandfather always said. He told me that I had an instinctual way about me. ‘You should be a surgeon with hands like that,” he’d say. I always believed I would fulfill my dream; but I fell in love, got married and had two children. That dream got kind of lost in the shuffle. My husband always tells me to go back to school. I never thought he meant it, but now I can see that he does. Boy have I been living in a haze. I never realized just how much my husband and kids depend on me. All this time, I thought they were taking me for granted. They must think that I am such an uncaring person. How could I have been so blind? What have I been thinking?”
Suddenly, she looks up and realizes that the room fell silent. Everyone is looking at her. The guard said, “You talked louder and louder with every sentence.”
She turned back to the room and apologized for going on like that. “I had decided to leave town today before all this happened.” She pauses and then starts again as tears flowed down her cheeks, “But now I realize that I would have been making a huge mistake.”
Then they all sit and exchange stories and try to keep the guard awake and out of shock for about two hours. They try to keep their moods light, but they each steal looks at the door and wonder what is going on outside. The door to the room opens and men in black with gun come inside. The group screams with delight when they see it is the police.
One of the policemen yells for the paramedics when he sees the guard on the floor. “We have a gunshot victim in here,” he shouts. “Is anyone else injured?” he asks, looking over at Hope and seeing the blood on her.
“No, I haven’t been shot. I’m fine. This is his blood.” She said pointing toward John, the guard.
The police take everyone’s statement and then tell them they can leave.
As Hope emerges from the bank, she notices that the clouds have dissipated and the sun is beaming. A local reporter that Hope recognizes from the news, walks towards her and holds out her microphone.
“I understand that you played an important role in the robbery.”
Hope replies, “Not on purpose anyway.”
The reporter asks her more questions and Hope answers a few then says, “You’ll have to excuse me, I have to get home and ready for a date with my husband.”
She walks to her car and gets in. She glances over at her umbrella and laughs.
When she walks into the house, she takes off her clothes and puts them into the washer. She looks around the house as if seeing it for the first time in years. She reflects again, not only on the plans she made to leave, but also on her new plans. She straightens up the house a little and then gets into a hot bath. She soaks there for about half an hour, and thinks about how her decision will help fill that perceived void in her life. She loves her family and really does not want to leave. She knows that now. She just needs something for herself. She knows Tom will understand. She emerges from the bath water and gets ready to go out.
The kids are home. She could hear them in the kitchen. She yelled down, “hello,” and got the same reply in unison.
Then she realizes that she forgot to call the sitter.
A little while later, her husband comes home and kisses her as he walks through the door. He puts his briefcase on the table and tells her how beautiful she looks.
“What did you do today?” He asks.
She just smiles and says, “I’ll tell you later.”
Hope reaches up and straightens Tom’s tie. “But first there is something I need to discuss with you. What do you think about me going to Medical School?”
“What brought on this change?”
“Well you know that I’ve always wanted to do this, but I just keep putting it off.”
“I know. I think it would be great. You should do it.”
“Honestly?” She asks.
He smiles and puts his hands on her upper arms. “Honestly. I know you’ll make a great doctor. I’ve always sensed that.”
Hope raises her arms and puts them around Tom’s neck. “By the way, I forgot to call a sitter. Looks like this will be a family dinner.”
“The best kind. It will be fun.”
He hugs her back and then kisses her. “I know you’ve made the right decision. I’m behind you all the way. The kids are old enough now. “He walks over to the desk drawer and pulls out an envelope and hands it to her. She opens it up and gasps. She is very surprised to see Medical School information.
Hope turns around and looks into Tom’s eyes. “You are a wonderful husband. Did you know that? I knew you’d understand.”
“I know, I know.”
She laughs and then kisses him again with passion. She laces her arm through his as they grab their coats and go downstairs. They yell to the kids that it is time to go. The kids come running in, but stop when they see their mother’s face.
“What’s going on?” They ask.
Hope looks over at her husband and smiles. “We’ll talk later.”
As they walk to the door leading out to the garage, a newscaster comes on the television. She is telling a story about an incredible story that had taken place earlier that day. Hope knows what it is about. She yearns to have the family watch, and at the same time she longs to savor the day privately for just a little while. She reaches for the remote and when she twists around to turn the television off, her picture flashes up on the screen. Hope smiles as she turns to look at her family standing outside the door. She spins back around with delight and hits the off button. They will learn of it later she thinks as she walks toward the door.
Her youngest son runs inside and says, “Hurry up Mom. What’s taking so long? You look pretty. I love you” and gives her a hug around her legs.
She looks down at him, puts her hand on his head, then looks up at the rest of her family and thinks, how could I ever leave them? I would have to be out of my mind. I love them and they need me. Even more important than that, I need them.
“I love you too. Very much, and always will.” She says.
She reaches down, pulls him up to her and gives him a big bear hug. Hope then walks out into the peaceful night with her family.