Chapter 1

I hope you love to smile. I hope you love to laugh. I hope you believe in the purity of little girls, because this story is about a pretty and fit nine-year-old girl named Hope who has the power to heal through love.

She has beautiful long brunette hair, and she has the most mesmerizing blue eyes this side of the ocean. Her giggles make angels cry. Her love and compassion for others are marvelous and a wonder.

Hope is so smart and wise that her unique ideas can create worlds unto themselves. Hope is so brave for sharing of herself, that this world is so much more precious with her in it. Hope is so pretty and stylish that she lights up any room when she walks into it.

Hope's smile is so divine, and when it graces this world her rosy cheeks come alive. The only thing better than Hope's smiles are her hugs and little girl kisses. Hope is so open and loving because she knows how wonderful it feels when somebody believes in you. When somebody encourages you and loves you so much they smother you with their own hugs and millions of little kisses.

"My favorite time is when my Uncle Allan grabs me up in his powerful loving and protective arms. He tickles me on the tummy with one hand, and he gives me a million little kisses on my cheek and ear. He says my little girl giggles make him feel more loved than patriotism. For you see my favorite uncle is a soldier in the United States Army, and he is coming home on leave. He is coming home for a long overdue visit."

Allan is a Special Forces soldier. Allan knew from the time he was a young teenager that the call to serve was so strong that it would be his life. With honor and pride, he has served along side some of this nation's finest individuals. Both men and women alike have served right alongside him, and he is a better person because of it.

"In my youth my baby sister Sarah was my favorite person. Now her and her daughter Hope are my favorite people. Not that I love anybody any less, but when I'm around those two amazing girls my heart seems freer and lighter.

"I have been in-country for so long now fulfilling my destiny, my mind has become stretched and strained. I haven't been home since I came back from Iraq before I went to Afghanistan.

"I have met wonderful people there. I hope the very best for them, especially their girls. But I am so tired and empty that I have to take a break. If I am going to find the best part of me again I will find it with the people I love the most. If I can be pulled back from the brink that I feel I am on, I believe it is Sarah and Hope that can do it for me. Yes, I believe Hope is my best hope."

"When is Uncle Allan getting back from Afghanistan?" asks Hope of her mom Sarah.

"I don't know, baby. "He just said he was coming home for a while and he couldn't wait to see us. He sounded so distant and odd. I hope he is okay," says Sarah. "He said he couldn't wait to hear Hope giggle. He said he really needs to hear your giggles while you hug the weariness from his soul."

"I love Uncle Allan so much. I hope he is okay, too."

"He better be, or he won't get anywhere near my daughter!" states Hope's dad. His name is Jerry.

"That is my brother," says Sarah angrily.

"Uncle Allan loves me more than life itself. He would never hurt me!"

"He has been in combat for years now. I'm not saying I don't appreciate and admire his courage and calling, but he himself obviously knows something is going on inside of him. Yes, Allan and me have never really gotten along, but this is not about that. This is about my family."

"I don't care what Allan has gone through. I mean as far as no matter what he has gone through, he would never hurt Hope or me. Never!"

"That's right, daddy. I am Uncle Allan's little babygirl, and if he is in pain or needs help I will be there for him. Why? Because he would be there for me no matter what."

Allan lands at the Sacramento International Airport in the middle of the night with no fanfare or celebrations. That is the way he prefers it. His mind has gone quiet. He needs the quiet, but he feels as if things are about to go loud and ballistic at any moment.

His eyes dart around as he waits for his green duffle bag to come out of the carousel. As he walks out into the front of the airport and a taxicab comes slowly towards him he gets an uneasy feeling.

He gives the cab driver the address to his friend's house that lives in Garden Land of North Sacramento. Yes, it is almost two o'clock in the morning, but his friend is expecting him. He has his car charged and waiting for him.

As he pulls up to the yellow house on the corner, he can see his sixty-nine Chevelle two-door hardtop that is painted candy apple red. He walks up to his friend's house and quietly knocks on the door, because he doesn't want to wake his friend's wife and kids.

His friend opens up the door with a smile and hugs Allan. "It is good to see you, brother."

"Thanks, Eric. It is good to see you, too." Both Eric and Allan served in Iraq together. After Allan comes out of the bathroom Eric asks, "So, are you going to stay here for the night or what?"

"Thanks, but no. I really need to get one of Hope's hugs."

"Are you okay, man?"

"Honestly, I am just empty. I have given of myself all I can for now. I just need to get away. I need to be surrounded in the love and laughter of my two favorite girls."

Eric hands Allan the keys to his sixty-nine Chevelle. As he watches his friend drive away he sighs, because he knows what that feeling is like. He hopes the very best for his friend and fellow soldier.

It doesn't take Allan long to get to Folsom. It is around three o'clock in the morning by the time he is knocking on his sister Sarah and his niece Hope's front door. Sarah opens it up and flies into her big brother's loving arms. They hold onto each other for a marvelously long time.

When they pull back from each other Sarah's eyes are filled with tears. "I have missed my big brother so much."

Allan smiles at her and hugs her again. "I've missed you, too. And Hope, too, of course."

Sarah smiles knowingly with much love in her heart. "She is waiting for you. Go ahead. We'll see each other in the morning. I'll make you your favorite breakfast."

"My baby sister, always watching out for me."

"Only because my big brother loved, protected and held me through the worst parts of my life. I would say we were each other's grace, and now I am so happy that Hope is apart of our amazing love."

Allan smiles, but his eyes are tired and sad. "Me too."

Allan opens up Hope's bedroom door and she is sleeping so adorably in her teddy bear covered blankets. The light from the hall is making Hope's pretty face glow divinely. Allan quietly takes off his combat boots and walks over to the bed and sits down next to Hope.

Allan smiles and then his eyes flood with tears. He takes his left hand and moves some hair out of Hope's face and she wakes up. She looks over and smiles. She sits up and crawls out of her covers and climbs into her uncle's lap and hugs him hard. "Uncle Allan, I am so glad you are here."

Allan hugs the stuffing out of her as he says, "Me too, babygirl. Me too."

Both of them are tired, so Hope crawls back under her covers, and then with a smile she holds them up next to her for Allan to crawl in also. He does, and then he wraps his mighty arm lovingly and protectively around Hope and he can feel his heart starting to heal already.

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Story tagged with:
Fantasy / Dragons / Magic / Unicorns /