In the Hope of Memories
Publication date: March 21st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Hope is dying.
Hope Jackson has lived her short life to the fullest, but her four closest friends are dangling on the brink of disaster. Right before dying of a rare heart condition, Hope sets up a scavenger hunt across New York City using her graffiti art. The directions she leaves her friends are simple: Solve the clues hidden in her art, and they’ll solve the problems haunting their lives.
Hope is dead.
Two days after her heart fails, Hope’s friends are thrown together:
Aiden, her best friend, whose plans to attend college have been scattered by his OCD.
Kali, her foster sister, whose last ties to sanity are as razor-thin as her anorexic waistline.
Erik, her high school crush, whose success as an athlete is based on a lie with no end in sight.
And Sam, her online pen-pal, whose perfect life exploded into chaos in the aftermath of a school bombing.
Together, the four teens take to the streets of New York to complete Hope’s scavenger hunt and fulfill her dying wishes. But in order to unravel the clues hidden in Hope’s graffiti, her friends will need to confront their personal demons head on.
Hope is within reach.
"Wait!" I slam my hand against the door to stop it from clicking shut, wincing as the splintered wood digs into me. "I'm looking for Hope. Hope Jackson. She said she'd be here."
The dude shakes his head. "She's dead."
My heart stutters a fast and hard beat, like it does right when I get tackled on the field. "No. No, she's not. She's the exact opposite of dead. Today is her eighteenth birthday. Her birthday party is about to start right now."
Official Reason Number Infinity it Sucks to Be Going Blind: When you can't see right, you can't stop a fist from colliding with your face. The dude’s knuckles crash into my jaw, and I yelp, more out of shock than pain. I'm about to pound my own fist into the freak when he starts talking again, this time in a tone that’s actually kind of pissed.
"She's dead, you jerk! You really think it's funny to joke about that?"
"I'm not joking!" I rub at my jaw with the back of my clenched hand. Part of me is itching to mess up this guy's face, but a larger part is starting to panic. "You're the one with the wrong info," I say, silently praying I'm right. "Hope isn't dead."
The dude stares down at his hand and slowly curls and uncurls his fingers, like he can't quite believe he just threw a punch. Then he whispers, "You're not messing with me?"
"No! What kind of sick joke would that be? Like I said, I'm just trying to find her birthday party. I got an invite from her, I swear. It said to come here."
Apparently, this conversation isn't weird enough for him, so he has to add in some awkward silence. Fan-freaking-tastic. Just when I’m starting to think he's slipped into a coma, he says, "Sorry I punched your face."
I take a deep breath. "Just tell me where her birthday party is, okay?"
"I told you, there is no party. Hope is dead."
"Christ, are you seriously going to make me explain this again? She’s not dead. It’s her birthday today. As in the day when you celebrate a person being alive."
"It would have been her birthday," the dude says, slipping back into his strange monotone. "But now she's dead."
The seriousness in his voice makes my gut twist, and for a moment, I wonder if maybe he hurt Hope. My hand edges toward my pocket, but just as I'm considering grabbing my cell phone and dialing 9-1-1, I see a tear trickle down his cheek. It looks strange on his expressionless face, but another tear quickly follows, and then a third. He sniffs and turns away, wiping his right eye on the battered sleeve of his hoodie.
"What happened?" I ask, my voice a cracked whisper. All sorts of scenarios rush through my head—Hope’s plane crashing on vacation, a car accident, getting caught in a wrong-place-wrong-time shooting...
"You don't know?" the dude asks.
"No. Was it in the news?"
The smallest beginning of a frown tugs at his lips. "Of course not. Why would the news report about a stroke victim?"
"Stroke?” I repeat. “She had a stroke? What...why? What triggered it? She’s a health freak."
He blinks slowly and then says again, "You don't know?"
"Let me get this straight," I say to Aiden. "You want me to go to some random bakery in a random part of town, with you, a random person I don't even know, to search for some random clue that's part of a random scavenger hunt that might not even exist. And all this because of a piece of string and a mention of a fortune cookie."
"Yes," Aiden says, like this is the most natural thing in the world.
I'm about to scoff when I remember something else from that first day I met Hope. We'd been talking casually, just getting to know each other, when suddenly she'd mentioned that she had a little sister named Kali. And I'd been like, "Really? That's crazy, because I do, too. Her name’s actually Kalina, but we all call her Kali."
And Hope had just given this little smile and held up her left hand, showing off a bracelet made of braided red thread. I can still remember exactly what she said: "It's not crazy. It's fate."
And she'd gone on to tell me all about this old Chinese myth about The Red String of Fate, and honestly, it sounded like a load of crap to me. But she was so enthusiastic that I actually liked hearing about it, and from then on, it became a thing between us. Whenever anything even mildly coincidental would happen, we'd both stop whatever we were doing, point to each other, and say, "Fate!" I'd always say it all jokey, and she'd always sound dead-serious, but we'd both be smiling.
I stare down at the invite, this time letting my gaze hover on her flowing signature, just as bright and bold as her personality. Maybe, just maybe, Aiden is right. Maybe Hope did want us to go to that bakery, and maybe the color of the string and the fortune cookie reference aren't coincidence. And if she did want us to take off on some crazy scavenger hunt... Well, I can't exactly ignore her dying wish, can I?
"Okay, Hope," I murmur, running my thumb over her signature. "Let's go find ourselves some fate."
I reach for the last handful of birdseed, but my fingers close around something made of fabric. I quickly pull it out from the bottom of the bag. Hope’s bracelet. I made it for her when I was ten. She was always going on and on about the Red String of Fate, so when we had to make friendship bracelets in my art class, I wove two from red thread. One for Hope, and one for me. I accidentally broke mine just a few weeks later, but I should have known better to assume Hope would ever break hers.
My hand clenches around the bracelet. I should hate this. I should be angry. I should be just as mad as every other time Hope tried to tell me she loved me, because I don’t deserve it, and it’s disgusting to think she’d waste her time on me.
But the thing is, now she doesn’t have any more time. All those hours and weeks and years she spent on me are set in stone. I can’t avoid her anymore; I can’t silently pray she’ll move on with her life and spend it loving someone who can actually give her happiness. And I also can’t accept her love.
But the one thing I can do is fulfill her dying wish and follow this scavenger hunt. It’s such a worthless gift, but I guess Hope shouldn’t have expected much else from me. And after all, even if I don’t believe in fate, I do believe in the future. Time won’t stop just because I beg it to, so I might as well spend it tangled up with Hope’s friends, instead of strung up alone with empty memories of everything I ruined.
Spray-painted on the back wall of the alley is a bloodied scimitar, its handle a wickedly curved hourglass. It should be ugly—it’s basically just a really big knife with blood on it. But it’s beautiful, because it’s clearly one of Hope’s works, and she put just as much detail into this piece of art as she did with her others.
Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of pictures of Hope’s graffiti, but I’ve never actually seen it in person. I do my best to avoid the whole juvenile delinquency thing, even when it’s just tiny things like spray-painting alleys. Now I’m regretting turning her down all those times she asked me to come with her while she painted. I want to know how she does it—this sort of artwork looks like it belongs in a fancy museum, and it doesn’t seem humanly possible that it was made from three-dollar cans of spray-paint.
Then again, Hope was good at that—doing the impossible. She was the only one who ever managed to see me as “quirky” and “dedicated,” instead of all the other names people usually use.
Apparently, taking off to Brooklyn at night with two strange dudes is a normal occurrence in Kali’s household, because her moms don’t put up much of a fuss. Or maybe they just think that any trouble Hope would get us into won’t be as bad as the trouble Kali comes up with herself. We take my SUV, and we’re about to leave Kali’s neighborhood and hit the interstate when she screeches, “Pull over!”
I wince at her shriek and slam on the brakes, veering off to the side of the road. A sports-car honks at me from behind, but then it goes around, and we’re left idling at the entrance of her neighborhood. Then Kali shoves open the passenger door and hops out of the SUV. She stalks around the front of the car, stops right outside my door, and crosses her arms. “Out,” she snaps.
“Get out of the car. Now.”
I look at her hands, half expecting to find some sort of weapon there. But, apparently, this isn’t a hold-up, because her balled fists are only clenched around air.
“You can’t tell me to get out,” I protest. “This is my car.”
She jabs her thumb at her chest. “Yeah, and this is my skin. And I actually feel like saving it for once, so get out of the damn car and let me drive.”
“Thank you, Kali,” Aiden whispers from the back seat. He sounds like he’s about to get either really emotional or really sick.
“Shut up,” I snap at him. “My driving isn’t that bad.”
Kali snorts and tugs my door open. For someone that skinny, she moves awfully fast, like she’s a snake or something. “You blew through three stop signs and took four wrong turns in the past ten minutes. It should have taken us two minutes tops to get here.”
“Okay, so fine, I suck at the whole right versus left thing. Big deal.”
“Three stop signs,” Aiden repeats in his whispery-scared voice.
Kali grabs my arm with a grip that’s shockingly strong. She tugs on me, trying to yank me out of the car. “How the hell does a dude your age not grasp the difference between right and left?”
“I don’t know, it’s just never made any sense, okay? It’s really not that big of a deal.”
“Three,” Aiden says again, this time in a sort of groan.
I turn around to glare at him, and he stares back with wide eyes that are borderline traumatized. For Christ’s sake, he really doesn’t need to act so dramatic. I’m sure my vision is making my driving worse than normal, but it can’t be that bad.
“Shut up,” I tell him again.
“Let Kali drive,” he says. “I don’t want us to crash.”
“We’re not going to crash, so shut up.”
He shakes his head. “Accidents that occur on the interstate have a forty-six percent higher chance of fatality.”
“Geeks that annoy me have a one hundred and eighty percent higher chance of getting their faces messed up.”
“Guys!” Kali snaps. “This isn’t that hard. Erik, just get the hell out of the car and sit in the passenger seat. I’ll drive, and no one will die or get punched.”
I raise my eyebrows at Kali. “Do you even have your license?” I wouldn’t think to ask the question if I didn’t know she was younger than Hope—Kali looks like she’s twenty and carries herself like she’s even older.
She flips her hair over her shoulder and gives an exasperated huff. “I don’t need a license to know how to drive.”
“Oh god,” Aiden says from the backseat, his voice all quiet again. “We really are going to crash.”
Olivia Rivers is a hybrid author of Young Adult fiction. Her works include the independently published novels “Frost Fire” and “In the Hope of Memories,” along with the traditionally published novel “Tone Deaf” (Skyhorse 2016.) As a certified geek, she enjoys experimenting with new publishing technologies, and her online serials have received over 1,000,000 hits on Wattpad.com. When Olivia isn’t working as a writer, she’s a typical teen attending college in Northern California. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, and nothing thrills her more than hearing from readers.