Highly Commended Story - Hope
“Hope” by Evangeline Jose, St. Joseph’s School, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
Evangeline a 15-year-old who studies in St. Joseph’s School is a resident of Abu Dhabi, the capital city of UAE. Besides writing she also enjoys drawing, hand lettering, doodling, reading stories and learning different languages. She loves writing, because it helps her put elements of her life into others and shape characters with their own stories.
I smiled, breathing in the fresh air as my feet hit the sidewalk. Around me, the city was buzzing with activity. People were running helter-skelter, some carrying coats and coffee, others carrying stacks of official looking papers and files. Then there was the usual posse of teenagers, performing on the street, hoping to earn a nickel from the odd passer-by. I dropped a few coins into their hat and was immediately greeted with whoops and cheers. Going further, I stopped at a food truck hoping to grab a quick bite. I settled for a chicken sandwich with a glass of fresh juice. I was just paying my bill when I spotted a young girl, the same young girl I saw on the streets every day, rather raggedly dressed, looking longingly at the food truck menu. Unkempt hair and bare feet. Her dark eyes stared at the menu steadily and I spotted a trickle of drool at the corner of her mouth. I glanced at the food truck, then at her face and then at my purse. I knew what I had to do.
The girl’s face lit up as soon as I thrust the brown paper bag into her ragged hands. She looked at it for ages, then she slowly lifted her head and looked up at me in awe. Then suddenly, she hugged me, her face pressed against my jacket, her hands tight around my back. And then she turned and ran away. Dazed, I picked up my own brown packet and walked tomy office next door.
The office was in chaos when I arrived. Everyone was complaining about something or the other and I was at my wit’s end. All throughout the day, I kept glancing at the clock on the wall. Finally, when it was time to leave, I was the first one out the door. I sighed heavily as I walked along the street. The sky was painted with beautiful hues of orange and pink, but I was too disheartened to notice. I couldn’t sleep throughout the night. I kept tossing and turning in bed. The incident with the pauper girl on the streets in the morning kept replaying in my mind. The next morning, I didn’t feel very good. I thought I was coming down with something, so I got lots of sleep. But when I still felt terrible even after two whole days of rest and soup and other remedies, I checked myself into a hospital.
The doctors said it was something serious, and they did lots of tests every day. Because of this, I was usually worn out by the end of the day. But even in the midst of all this, all I wanted was someone to talk to. I was so very lonely. Everyone else in the hospital had daily visitors, people who brought them flowers and chocolates and all sorts of things. I had no one. And this thought depressed me. I thought of the times when I had to go visit Ellie in the hospital when she was extremely ill. She had been my very best friend, and now she was gone too. This thought brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t even known that Ellie was ill until the very end. She’d hidden it so well from me. If only I’d known earlier, I would have been by her bedside every single day. This was my last thought before I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to the doctor’s stern voice telling someone off. “But I just want a minute with her,” pleaded the other voice, shrill and high-pitched. My eyes fluttered open and I saw a young girl, around twelve, dressed in rags. Her curly hair was tied back with a grubby ribbon with only two strands hanging loosely about her face. Her face, there was just something about it. Something all too familiar. Sensing I was awake, their faces turned towards me. And that’s when I realized, she was the girl, that girl who was roaming about in the streets, the same girl for whom I had bought a meal! “I didn’t see you cross the street today, so I thought something was wrong, and after a bit of research, I learnt you were here,” she paused for breath. “I just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ for the meal, you were the only person who cared enough to buy me one,” she looked at my eyes. I just wanted to die. You taught me that humanity was still left in the world.” Her eyes were brimming with tears. And one look at those tear-stained eyes gave me a new hope. A hope for tomorrow. My wish was fulfilled, I had a visitor, and one I couldn’t be more thankful for. She had lit the fire in my heart that had until now, been on the verge of extinguishing itself. But now it was ablaze, the flames enkindled. And as I sat talking with that young girl, I realized, all I’d ever needed was someone to spare a thought for me as I’d done for her.