Are you ready for THE FLIGHT OF HOPE by USA Today Bestselling Author HJ Bellus?
A tragic accident. A mother in mourning. Can a second chance rise from the wreckage?
Marlee Foster’s life was just getting started. She couldn’t wait for the return of her husband from deployment. After all, he’d be there just in time for the birth of their daughter. The welcome home party is full of joy, but on the way home, tragedy strikes…
When Marlee loses her husband and daughter, her friends and family do their best to heal her broken heart. But painful reminders of a future she’ll never see haunt her every day in the small town. Her only hope at a second chance is to leave it all behind…
As she sets out on a soul-searching adventure, the mourning widow wonders if the wilderness will give her hope for a brighter future or if she’ll forever be chained to a devastating past. During her journey, Marlee is about to learn that love has a funny way of coming back to those who need it the most…
The Flight of Hope is a heart-wrenching contemporary romance in the vein of Nicholas Sparks. If you like emotional journeys, strong-willed heroines, and second chance romances, then you’ll love HJ Bellus’ touching tale.
Buy The Flight of Hope to settle in with a tear-jerker today!
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There are people. Rows and rows of cars. Black everywhere. I can’t feel my feet as my high heels sink into the grass. My face is numb, as are my fingers. The searing pain burning my insides is alive and well.
Momma urges me down into a chair draped in velvet. It’s front row. My view? Two caskets with flowers covering every surface. The sweet, floral smell is making so sick; to the point, I clutch my stomach.
“You okay?” Mom whispers in my ear.
I shake my head. If I open my mouth, a torrent of emotions will seep out. Sara screams in the background. I peer over my shoulder to see Maddie with tears streaming down her face, trying to soothe her upset toddler. She offers me a comforting smile, but I don’t return it. I can’t stand the sight of Sara, and her cries only infuriate me.
“Mom, shut that baby up now.”
“Marlee, that’s enough.” She clutches my hand.
“Mom.” This time my voice escalates to a scream. “I can’t take it!”
“Okay. Okay.” Mom rises, and it’s only minutes later until Sara’s cries fade.
I turn to see the backside of Maddie making her way to the parking lot. She glances back one more time before disappearing behind a row of trees. She’s devastated, but I don’t have it in me to care.
Silence. Caskets. Flowers.
The pastor welcomes everyone before the Military Honor begins. A muted bugle starts to play “Taps,” the well-known song for a fallen soldier. I stare at the man in his uniform playing the song. He’s only feet away. The song should be so much clearer, but it’s not. I’m drowning.
Once the song is over, our country’s beautiful flag is stretched before me and my family. The soldiers are meticulous as they present, fold the flag, and salute. Why couldn’t it have been them? Anyone, but who God chose to take.
A soldier with bright blue eyes kneels before me. His pristine white glove is on top of the flag. Mom tries to get me to stand, but I refuse to. Dad’s arm wraps around my waist, pulling me to my feet. He keeps me clutched to his side.
Nightmare after nightmare has played out in my sleep of this scenario and now I’m living it. My knees begin to quake, the effects of the pills wearing off, and I sob. The first, wracking my chest with a brutal force. I can feel my sternum crack under pressure then it becomes hard to breathe. The soldier’s words are barely recognizable.
“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army, as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Dad grabs my hand, holding it out to receive the flag. The red, white, and blue material burns my palm. My gut reaction is to let go of it in hopes of making this whole scene disappear. Dad won’t let me. He’s my rock right now.
The smell. The sight. Every damn element destroys me to the point it hurts to think about surviving. Once I’m able to pull in oxygen, a brutal force slams into my spine, reminding me of what I had. It was all taken away in a split second. The decision to run a red stoplight unraveled my past, present, and future.
My life flipped upside down. That doesn’t accurately represent what happened. I died that day. My soul vanished, and my heart quit beating, yet, I’m still alive with blood pumping through my veins, but I was a casualty on the side of the road.
I had everything, and it was the idyllic American dream. Hell, some would label me as spoiled, and I wouldn’t have argued. It was always my life. I was the center of everyone’s attention. A girl and then a woman who had to be the best at everything no matter the circumstance. I had no friends. I had him. Then he was gone.
“Birdie, lunch is ready. Your favorite, sweetie, grilled cheese and tomato soup.”
I peer up to my mom, regretting losing the scent of him once my nose leaves the sheets. His scent is barely there, and all it does is shatter the already broken pieces of my heart. I’m forced to bury my face back into the bed sheets. I do my best to shake my head. She knows I don’t want to eat, but she’s never given up on me.
Mom has made my favorite meals day after day. Grilled cheese and tomato soup used to make my world spin, and I’d squeal like a little girl. But, then again, I used to love life.
“Baby girl, you need to eat something.” The bed dips and then her familiar hand soothes trails over my dirty hair.
I shake my head again. My raw throat is sliced open by agony, making it sore, dripping with pain and blood. I’m unable to speak a word.
“Here, Birdie.” She nudges my shoulder. “Take these, and when you wake up, I’ll have another meal ready for you.”
I hold my palm open and hear the crinkle of the water bottle placed next to me on the bed. These three little, white pills have been the only things holding me together. It’s the magic keeping my shell of a body glued. But I’m tired, so sick of being numb, tumbling into slumber, and then springing right back into heartbreak. When the effects of the pills wear off, it’s unbearable to open my eyes. I hear it, smell it, and feel death all over again.
My chest grips my heart. My vision fills with their caskets we buried in the fertile soil of the earth. The smell of fresh dirt was tearing me apart, and all the while, I sat there and watched their bodies sink down six feet.
“It’s not fair, Mom. He fought for our country and then…” It hurts too much to finish my sentence. My words die off like they have since the doctors hit me with the news.
“I know, Birdie.” Her tender lips pepper kisses all over the side of my exposed face. “You have to push on, baby girl; so many love and need you. You’ll always have us. Always.”
I remain silent, waiting for her to leave the room. The pills roll around in my palm. The silent clinking of them screams to the point of gifting me with a migraine.
It’s at this moment I decide I can’t stay here. I don’t belong here any longer. The place I called home for so many years and then built a future with my husband doesn’t belong to me anymore. I’m a foreign stranger trapped in the confines of a house.
The pills fall without sound to the sheets. I take one long inhale of his scent, branding it to memory forever. I’ll never ever forget the man who was my first love and my only love who gave me everything. He was and always will be my best friend. No one will ever replace his force. It’s too painful to stay. Death is screaming my name and clawing for my soul.
One slit of the wrist with the sharp edge of my fishing knife or a forceful stab to the heart. That’s what I want. I hunger for the blood to drain from my body until my heart ceases. I won’t have time to bleed out in peace before someone barges in, checking on me. My parents and his parents are enduring the same kind of hell I’m stuck in. I can’t put them through more pain, but I can’t breathe here. It’s too damn much.
I have one option.
Run and never come back to my personal hell.
I take his shirt and the bag next to our bed and do just that, never looking back again.
HJ Bellus is a small town girl who loves the art of storytelling. When not making readers laugh or cry, she’s a part-time livestock wrangler that can be found in the middle of Idaho, shot gunning a beer while listening to some Miranda Lambert on her Beats and rocking out in her boots.