Hoping for Joy
Hannah stares at the diamond ring on her finger. Her hopes for a wedding fade as Logan puts off the date. Does he love her anymore? Should she hand him the ring and move on? Should Hannah stop praying for a fiancé with no faith?
Logan hopes to save his sister from her addiction while helping his father raise his young niece. With his life in turmoil, Logan’s dreams vanish. One night, his sister holds a knife to Hannah’s throat and robs her. Will Hannah forgive him? What will he do with Joy, his sister’s child? Where can he turn for help?
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“I thought I’d be married and packing for my honeymoon by now.” Hannah grunted as she hefted a box of textbooks into the closet. Summer vacation had finally arrived at Baywater Elementary School and she had finished her first year of teaching a class of six-year-olds. Contemplating the two empty months ahead gave her a headache. “Whenever I question Logan about setting the date, he says, ‘Not yet.’”
Rose sat with a sketchbook in her lap and her feet up on the desk while her favorite tunes blasted through her earbuds. Hannah assumed her cousin didn’t hear a word she said. Most likely, Rose was working on a new tattoo design, because she spent all her time involved in drawing—unless she was actually tattooing.
Rose took out one of the earbuds. “He wants to straighten out his sister’s life.”
“He says that, but maybe it’s not the truth. Maybe…he got cold feet.” Hannah’s eyes grew misty, but she refused to let her emotions get the best of her.
“His sister nearly died.” Rose put her feet on the floor, closed the sketchbook, rolled up the wires to her earbuds, and stuffed them in her pocket.
Hannah sniffed. “Yes, she looked terrible in the hospital, but she went right back to her habit when she got out.”
Rose shrugged. “From what I’ve read, taking drugs changes the chemistry of the brain, which makes it almost impossible to stop.”
“Still, Logan ought to give me some attention—if he loves me.” She pouted as she ripped the backing paper off the bulletin board and jammed it into the trash.
“You’re wallowing in self-pity. Again.” Rose took the staple remover from the desk and pulled out the staples still stuck in the corkboard.
“But does Logan love me or not?”
Rose blew a huge pink bubble with her gum and popped it, loudly. “I told Mr. Grimm we’d be at the park before four o’clock.”
Hannah sighed. “Everything must be off the floor and in the closet before I leave.”
“Should I put the puzzles away next?” Rose asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Hannah filled another box with textbooks and hoisted them into the closet. “What if I give Logan some space? Break the engagement, hand him the ring, and later, when his sister improves—”
“If you love somebody you don’t abandon them.” Rose started stacking the puzzles in a plastic bin. “Whoa! This is a fantastic image of the cow jumping over the moon. Once a farmer wanted a cow tattoo, but I gave the job to Farrell.” She chuckled, grabbed her sketchbook again and began to draw the cow. “Awesome udder thing going on…”
Rose drifted off into her own world, which happened all the time and Hannah didn’t mind it except when Rose forgot to do the dishes or take out the trash. More like sisters than cousins, they shared the small bungalow on Beach Drive where Rose had grown up. When she went to study art in college, she gave her mother, Hannah’s Aunt Deborah, plenty of gray hairs. Then her mother got cancer. Rose quit college and stayed at her mother’s side through the long ordeal.
Hannah originally thought staying with her cousin would be a temporary situation, but since Logan kept putting off the wedding date, she might be there forever—or until she had enough money to rent an apartment of her own. Of course, moving back into her parents’ place was a possibility, but she longed to be more independent.
Had she made a mistake in accepting Logan’s proposal? When they were students, they enjoyed a sweet and comfortable relationship, but everything changed once they went out into the real world. She landed the teaching job in Baywater, New Jersey. He rented an apartment an hour and a half west, close to his job and the Pennsylvania border where his retired father lived in a little town outside Philly. Logan’s father took care of his granddaughter since Logan’s sister had been declared an unfit mother.
It was a sad situation, but as Logan’s intended spouse, Hannah didn’t think it was wrong to plan ahead for their new life together, starting with a wedding.
Logan sent Hannah a text message two days ago. He said Nina was missing—again. So instead of Hannah and Logan enjoying a date this weekend, Logan would be out searching for his sister. Hannah’s hope of a beautiful wedding faded away.
Rose held up her drawing. “What do you think? It’s terrific, isn’t it?”
“Should tattooed cows smile?”
“When they’re happy cows they do,” Rose pointed out. “If you were a dairy farmer wouldn’t you want your cow to appear delighted eating grass and making milk?”
“Why would someone advertise their business on their arm?”
“It’s cheaper than buying an ad in the newspaper.” Rose went back to putting the puzzles in the bin. “Aren’t you almost done? Mr. Grimm saved the best summer job for you. It should take your mind off things.”
Hannah studied her list and checked off all the tasks she had completed in the room. “I worked in the amusement park when I was in high school. Don’t you think I’m a little old for it now?”
“Age means nothing when it comes to having fun. One seventy-five-year-old senior citizen works the train ride. He laughs more than the kids.”
“I should spend my vacation doing something important, like taking a class—or—or traveling.” If she and Logan had gotten married, she would be lying on a beach in Aruba as they had originally planned.
“Your old car is going to breathe its last one of these days,” Rose reminded her. “If you work for a couple months, you might have enough for a down payment on a newer one.”
Hannah glanced at the classroom. One entire year of teaching had flown by. It had been a challenge, but one she enjoyed. She already missed the students, but she shouldn’t mope around all summer. Working at the amusement park would give her something better to do than lament her lack of a groom and a wedding.
Rose shoved the puzzles into the closet. “We’re done. Let’s hurry up before someone else gets the water balloon booth.”
“That’s the best job?”
“It’s the best spot in the entire park.” Rose laughed. “You’ll get drenched every night.”
Hannah sighed. “I guess I better keep my hair in a ponytail.”
“Cut it short like mine.” Rose rumpled her blue spiked coiffure.
Hannah smiled but shook her head. Logan once admired her long, auburn hair and made her promise never to shorten it. While he adored her silky mane, he didn’t seem to miss her much.
Her dreamy plans floated off like high cirrus clouds, thin and wispy and far, far away. “Do you think I’ll wind up an old maid?”
“Our Grandaunt Rose, my namesake, never married.” Rose shrugged. “Did she mope around?”
“No.” Hannah managed a weak smile. “She was still riding the roller coaster when she was eighty.”
“She dated plenty of men, but she never wanted to marry any of them.” Rose chuckled. “She said they were too much of a bother.”
Hannah sighed. Logan wasn’t a nuisance. He was absent. She closed the classroom door and signed out in the office. Rose hopped on her motorcycle, tossed a helmet to Hannah, and revved the engine. Hannah hung on as Rose drove her to the amusement park.
As the streets of Baywater whizzed by, Hannah closed her eyes. Logan ignored her. Did he love her? Did she love him? Had he forgotten his promise?
Should she dump him?
* * *
Hannah stood in the water balloon booth with Mr. Grimm as he explained what she was supposed to do.
“You gotta get the attention of the people who pass by.” He held one of the prizes in his hand and shook it above his head. “Say things like ‘I bet you got good aim,’ or ‘You only need two to play,’ or ‘See what you can win. Don’t you wanna give your girlfriend something special to remember the day?’”
“That stuffed monkey is very small.” Hannah thought it was ugly—even grotesque.
“If they win three games, they get the better prize, which is this incredible stuffed panda.” Mr. Grimm pulled the toy down from the shelf. “Bet you never laid eyes on anything like it.”
“You’re right,” Hannah admitted. The panda was large. However, instead of being black and white, it was a rather garish purple and the white fur had metallic silver streaks in it.
“Don’t sit down when you’re working,” Mr. Grimm warned. “Make sure you wear your uniform every night, too.”
“This t-shirt?” Hannah held it up. Emblazoned on the purple cotton were the words, “Baywater Amusements, Fun Times for the Whole Family.”
“I only give those out to the employees. Don’t hand it out to anyone. I don’t want somebody impersonating an employee.”
“Has that happened?”
“Yes, before I bought the shirts. Some kid opened up the frog pond game one night and ran off with all the money,” Mr. Grimm growled. “It ain’t gonna happen again, though.”
“But—but you know everyone in the county. Don’t you?”
“Yeah, but the kid picked the day I had to go to my sister-in-law’s wedding.”
“Did the police catch him?”
“No. I figure somebody told him I wouldn’t be around.” Mr. Grimm frowned at her. “Weren’t you getting married? There’s a diamond ring on your finger.”
“Yes, I’m engaged, only…we haven’t set a date…yet.” Hannah bit her lip.