Generation Four: Hope: Part Two
“Hi, Dad,” Hope Standish said in a desolate voice, flopping herself down on the sofa in her family’s living room beside her father, Leo, who was quietly reading a book. Hope's mother Alaina was taking a nap in the bedroom after a particularly athletic lovemaking session, and Leo had no idea anyone else was in the house.
He and Alaina were quite enjoying their alone time since Hope had gone off to college, and they still had not given up on having another child, even though they knew their age was catching up to them fast. They were beginning to come to terms with the fact they might never have another baby, but that didn’t keep them from trying with gusto!
“Hope!” Leo said in surprise, closing the book. “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at school?” He looked more closely at her expression. “Hope? Don’t tell me you...”
“Yes,” Hope answered, anticipating his unspoken question. “Yes, Daddy, I dropped out.” She sighed. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I know how much you wanted me to complete my degree.”
“Well...” Leo considered, “Yes, I did, but Hope, I’m worried about you! Are you all right? Was there a problem that made you decide to drop out so soon?”
“It's not a problem,” Hope said, shrugging. “I’m engaged, and I want to be married.”
“Engaged!” Leo cried, smiling broadly. “To who? Oh, let me guess... it must be that Grunt boy that was coming around here so much! Well, I must admit you two always looked good together, and I know...”
“No, Daddy, it’s not Ripp,” Hope interrupted, her chest catching painfully. Would only that it were... “No, it’s someone I met Downtown at a club one night. His name is Benjamin, Daddy. Benjamin Bar.”
“Really? Well, this is a surprise,” Leo said, giving his daughter a shocked look. “So, what’s this Benjamin like?”
“He has a lot of money, that’s all I know for sure.” Hope shrugged. “We went out a few times, fell in love, and I asked him to marry me. It’s that simple. He’s a little older than me, but...” she shrugged again, looking away.
“Hope, are you sure you want to do this?” Leo asked quietly, concerned. Hope didn’t look at all like a young lady who was announcing her marriage should look, and this was so out of the blue! He thought for sure his daughter was deeply in love with her high school sweetheart, and it only would have made sense if the two of them had grown up to get married.
When had everything gotten so mixed up for his little girl?
However, Leo knew things changed. People changed. Maybe there was something about this Benjamin that Hope really loved, but something still didn’t feel right.
Well, good or bad, I have to let her make her own decisions, Leo realized. After all, she is an adult now.
“Congratulations, honey,” Leo said, giving her shoulders a squeeze and smiling encouragingly. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.”
Hope gazed at her father and there was a faraway, pained expression in her eyes. Eyes that were so much like his. “I hope so, Daddy,” she said fervently. “I really hope so.”
“...for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; forsaking all others, until death do us part...” Hope murmured in a quiet voice to the elderly man standing across from her on their wedding day.
“With this ring, I thee wed,” Benjamin Bar said in a half-whisper to his new bride, gazing at her lovingly.
He absolutely couldn’t believe his good luck! Here he was, an old man, and out of nowhere this beautiful college student had approached him at a club one night and before he could even realize it, it seemed, she said she wanted to marry him. Him!
He was completely at a loss, completely in love, and would do anything in the world for her... anything, if only she asked.
And, if he noticed the anguished expression on her face as he kissed her, sealing the vows they had just made, he pretended he didn’t.
Later that night, after all the wedding guests left, Hope and Benjamin retired to their bedroom. Ben told Hope he wasn’t interested in going away on a wedding trip, saying he had all he could ever want right in front of him. Hope smiled at him, but her mind was on fast-forward.
She knew what was coming next, and she wasn’t sure what to expect.
Oh, she knew some things... she wasn’t a child, after all. Not only that, her parents had never taken the trouble to be overly silent behind their own closed bedroom door. Yet as much as Hope wanted to know what they knew, and to feel what they felt with her own husband, she didn’t really believe that would happen.
I threw away my one chance to feel that way with someone, she reminded herself bitterly as she undressed. I threw it away, and there’s no going back now.
Hope hadn’t seen Ripp since the last time they went out before she left for college. Ripp had also been able to enroll at Sim State, and arrived a short time after she did, living in a different dorm.
Hope knew this because of all the messages from him that had been left for her by all her dorm-mates. Hope, herself, always refused to answer the phone.
I wonder if Ripp knows what’s become of me, she thought to herself as she lay down on the bed, waiting for her new husband to join her. I wonder what he would do if he did know.
She turned her eyes toward the closed adjoining bathroom door, where Ben was, and waited for him to come to her. She shivered with an odd combination of feelings; anxiety, fear, and anticipation, all threaded through with an undeniable feeling of dread.
Therefore, she was a little disconcerted when Ben came out of the bathroom and just sat down in a chair nearby.
“I have a confession to make,” he said to her quietly, folding his hands together in his lap. “I want you to know that I might not be able to... to... uh...” he stammered, and looked down at the floor. “I... I want you to know it’s not you, Hope. It’s something that I can’t help.” He hid his face in his hands.
“What is it, Ben?” Hope asked. This wasn’t what she had expected. She sat up in bed and reached out to him. “You can tell me, darling. I’ll understand, whatever it is.”
“I’m impotent.” Ben said flatly. “At least, I am most of the time. Rarely, I can perform, but it's very rare... and I don’t seem to have any control over when it does and does not happen.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, Hope. I just wanted to let you know before I tried to make love to you… just in case I couldn’t.”
“Oh, Ben...” Hope breathed. She wasn’t sure what to say, and as he got into bed beside her and was only able to kiss and hold her, she felt a wash of pity.
Not only for him, but for herself.
What kind of marriage had she doomed herself to? What kind of marriage and what kind of life?
Time passed. Hope was able to settle into a predictable routine in her new life with her husband. For if anything else, her marriage was predictable. She and Ben were comfortable together, but try as he might, Ben still had not been able to consummate their marriage.
Hope was embarrassed to admit this to anyone, and in spite of the vows she had taken, she began to feel as though she was not truly married. She supposed some would claim she wasn’t.
However, lack of physical congress didn’t prevent her from growing very fond of Ben.
She enjoyed his company, he was extremely affectionate towards her, and he and her parents got along together famously. Her parents were growing older as well, and they would spend many hours soaking away their aches and pains in the hot tub along with Ben, or playing cards together until all hours of the night.
It was a simple life, a quiet life. A comfortable and easy life.
Hope supposed she should feel happy, yet she couldn’t stop the hunger she felt. The hunger any adult woman felt for physical love, and, added to that, also the growing, insistent hunger for a child.
Both were being denied her, and she had no one to blame but herself.
She became resigned to living a life of celibacy, childless, existing only to care for her aged husband and parents until she, herself, became too old to do and be anything else. Then, one afternoon, while everyone else in the house was napping, Hope went to answer the doorbell, and there stood the one person she both most desired and feared to see.
Ripp Grunt stood at her door, older now than the last time she had seen him, but he still had the ability to take her breath away and turn her knees to water.
“Hello, Hope,” Ripp said in a low, deep voice. “I think we need to talk.”
To Be Continued...