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The Promise

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Joyce wakes up to the sound of the phone ringing. Glancing towards the clock on her night stand she groans when she reads the bright red numbers.

 

3:40 A.M.

"Who in the hell would be calling me at this time?" She asks herself as she throws the blankets off her body and climbs out of bed.

She doesn't want the boys to wake up so she quickly makes her way towards the phone in the kitchen.

Picking up the phone she clears her throat hoping she doesn't sound like she was sleeping. Placing the phone to her ear she hears silence.

"Hello?" She says feeling a bit angry that she woke up for someone just to hang up.

"Joyce." A man's voice answers. She knows that voice, she's known that voice for years.

"Hop?"

"Hey." He sounds like he's in pain or been crying. They haven't talked for a few months since he's been back in Hawkins. All she knew was his money is running low and he had to leave the motel he was in a few weeks ago.

She hoped he knew he could come over to her house and stay for as long as he needed until he got back on his feet.

"Hop, are you okay?" She asks pushing the phone closer to her ear as if that would help her feel closer to him.

"Not really."

"Talk to me Hop."

He sighs on the other end. Taking a deep breath his voice cracks.

"I see you with your boys and how you are with them. I think you guys are great, such a beautiful family. I just wish I would habe known what that felt like." He sniffs trying to clear his nose.

"Hop?"

"I had a daughter."

"What? I didn't know you're a father." She says in shock.

She leans against the wall and listens to Hopper begin to sob on the other end.

"Hop, come on honey don't cry." She says feeling her emotions begin to start up, listening to him like this breaks her heart.

She's never heard him cry since they've known one another.

"I miss her." He sobs taking a deep breath into the phone. "I can't do it without her."

She didn't know what he was going to do anything to get away from the pain, her uncle Ron did something like that from the pain he had after his divorce. She wouldn't never forget that call she received about the upcoming funeral.

She doesn't want that to happen to Hopper, she wasn't going to chance it.

"Hop, why don't you come over. I'll make you some tea or anything you want." She says trying to keep her voice calm and clear.

"I don't want to impose."

"You're not, I'm inviting you over." She says smiling into the phone hoping he'll take the invite and head over to her house.

"Okay, I'll come over now."

"I'll be waiting." She says letting him know she will be waiting for him, he's known her so long that her silent message means 'If you don't show up I'll go out there and go looking for you.'

She hangs up the phone and makes her way towards the room to get changed so when he came in she wasn't in her pajamas.

Once she's changed she turns on the lights on the front room and kitchen. Filling up her tea pot she places it onto her stove, she thinks if he's actually dealing with something really bad maybe she should take out the hard stuff.

Grabbing a chair she climbs up using the chair like a step stool and unlocks the lock on the cabinet on top of the fridge where she hides her liquor.

If the tea doesn't help Jack was certainly going to hit the spot.

Making sure to put the whiskey on the coffee table, she lays two glasses onto two two coasters fantasy as a wedding gift from her ex mother and father-in-law.

The sound of Jim's truck signals he just arrived, she silently hoped having him in her house listening to what he's going through would make him feel a little better.

She listens to the truck shutting off and the sound of the driver door closing.

His foot steps approaching closer and closer, she walks towards the door before he knocks and possibly wakes up the boys.

When the door swings open his face comes into view and breaks her heart when she sees the way he looks.

His eyes swollen, nose and cheeks red from crying.

"Hey Hop, how are-"

He doesn't let her finish her sentence, he pulls her into his arms and hugs her tightly in his arms. She wraps her arms around his torso since that was mostly all she could reach.

They stand in the doorway, night air blowing gently through the open door inside, they hug for what seems like minutes.

When he finally pulls back he wipes his tears from his face.

"You must think I'm a cry baby." He says looking to her with embarassment.

"Not even a little." She answers taking him by the arm and leading him inside the house. The sound of the teapot beginning to whistle inside the kitchen.

Hop closes the door as quietly as possible and follows her towards the kitchen.

"I'm all ears Hop, whenever you're ready to talk I'll be ready to listen." She says as she reaches the stove and takes the teapot off and grabs the mugs from the counter.

Placing a tea bag inside each of the mugs she begins to pour the steaming hot water inside and watches as the water begins to turn a shade of brown.

"Things aren't going my way." He leans against the counter watching Joyce grab some sugar.

She uses a teaspoon and scoops two sugars for each mug.

"Go on Hop, I'm listening." She encourages.

"It all started with my ex wife."

"What was her name anyway?" She asks glancing towards him as she stirs the sugar.

"Diane." He answers.

"Diane." She repeats to herself. "Okay, go on."

"She called me up yesterday, she told me she met a new man and wanted me to give her my blessing to marry him."

"What?"

"Yeah, you heard me right. She wanted my goddamn blessing like I'm her fucking father." He repeats his face turning a shade of red from anger.

"She wants you to give your blessing."

He nods his head.

"To the man she had an affair with?" She asks trying to understand the whole story.

Hopper stops nodding. "No, she didn't have an affair with this guy." He answers.

"So she had an affair with another man?"

"No, Joyce she never had an affair with anyone."

Joyce squints her eyes towards Hopper in confusion.

"I'm lost here. Start from the beginning." She says trying to get it straight.

"Joyce you don't understand, I can't talk about it right now cause it's so soon." He explains. "It's a tender wound."

Joyce nods her head grabbing a mug she hands it over to Hopper so he has something to drink.

"I understand that it hurts to talk about honey but sometimes it will feel better if you talk about it out loud to someone." She explains watching Hopper blow on the tea and sip it with a wince from the heat.

"Hop, did you have an affair?" She asks hoping to God that he wasn't the one.

"What? Me? Never, nobody wants me anyway. I was lucky to find her." He begins to explain.

"Oh stop it. There are plenty of women that find you attractive." She says trying to shut him up from talking down about himself.

"Oh yeah, who?"

Joyce thinks of all the women they went to school with.

"What about Chrissy Carpenter?" She asks.

"She was just there to have sex, nothing else. Also that was in Sophomore year." He says sounding a bit amused by where the conversation went.

Joyce doesn't want to hear about all the other girls Hop used to sleep with, she always hated his choice in women.

"What about Laura Fisher."

"The toad?"

"Hop!"

"She looks like a frog and we all know it. You used to call her the toad too." He says.

"That was a long time ago."

"I bet if I went to Benny's, Mike's and Stuart's house and started talking about Laura they would all ask if I was talking about the toad."

She shakes her head in disbelief.

"Okay how about this, you and the other girls. Karen, Jeni and Beth if I brought up Bob."

"The Brain?" She asks.

"I rest my case." He says with a smile. "Again with high school, is that all the women you can think of?" He asks.

"Of course not, I just don't know if your taste in women has changed since high school."

"More then you'll know." He answers. "I also still wouldn't go for the toad if she asked."

She shakes her head. "Okay this conversation doesn't matter, what matters is what happened between the both of you." She says changing the subject back to Jim and his ex.

Hopper sighs and places the mug onto the counter.

"I uh..." He stops rubbing his face. He laces his fingers within his hair and pulls trying to fight the war within his head.

"She said I became an alcoholic." He answers letting the words come out like vomit.

Joyce thinks about the whiskey she placed onto the coffee table in the living room. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bring it out.

"I became my father." He says a new batch of tears pouring from his eyes.

"Hey. You didn't become your father." She explains.

Hoppers father was an abusive alcoholic, she remembers in high school Hop would come to school with new bruises and blame it on the wrestling.

"Hop, I know you all too well. I know you would never put a finger on a woman or child. Ever."

He looks to her with tears in his eyes.

"I loved them both."

"Did you tell them that?" she asks grabbing ahold of his arm and gently rubbing circles with her thumb against his skin.

"I told them everyday." He answers. "I just wanted the bottle of liquor more then I wanted to be with her. I used it to numb my feelings and forgot about her." He sobs.

Joyce guilds him towards the chair in the dining room and helps him take a seat.

"How did it affect your daughter?" She asks rubbing his shoulder.

Hopper looks down towards the floor and shakes his head.

"I can't so this." He says wiping the tears and standing up quickly, causing Joyce to take a few steps back.

Hopper starts to head out of the dining room and towards the front door.

"Wait, where are you going?" She asks following him into the living room.

"I think I'm going to head home." He turns to look towards Joyce. He notices the whiskey on the coffee table.

"You don't have to leave, I mean you just got here." She says. "We don't have to talk about your ex wife or daughter. We don't have to talk about any of it until you're ready."

Jim nods his head in agreement. She knew what he was going through she understood completely. It took her what seemed like ages to even say Lonnies name and explain what happened. She knows Hopper has been very quiet with things that has happened in his personal life, she knows him that when he's ready he'll tell her what happened and why it's been so hard on him.

He moves closer towards the middle of the room towards her.

"What should we talk about then?" He asks.

"How about where you're staying."

Hopper rolls his eyes and tosses his head back.

"Hop, I know you ran out of enough money and don't really have a place to stay."

"I'm not worried." He says shaking his head before glancing towards the front door.

"Hop, where are you living?"

"I'm fine Joyce."

"That wasn't my question."

Hopper rubs the invisable stress from his face.

"Joyce."

"Jim." He looks down towards her and follows her as she walks towards him. She places her hands on her hips.

"Who told you?" He asks wanting to know who would have told her his business.

"Come on Hop, you know people care about you here in this town that you hate so much. You don't think they're gonna worry about you when you start living on the streets?"

'Who told you?" He raises his voice in almost a shout.

Joyce takes a step towards him, using her index finger she points to his face. Her eyes furious.

"Don't you dare yell at me in my house, I have my boys in their rooms sleeping and I swear if you wake them up because you shouted I will shove my foot right up your-"

"Okay, I'm sorry." He says never seeing her angry with him before. "I'm sorry." He repeats.

"You know I'm just worried about you." Moving her hand away and letting them hang by her side.

"I know, but you really don't need to be." He says looking towards her.

"I did hear you had another boy." He says changing the subject.

"He was born when you were still in Hawkins." She says.

"Yeah but Lonnie." He stops.

"Lonnie what?" She asks.

"He made me stay away from Jonathan and you." He says.

She looks away pushing her lips together in anger. "That son of a bitch." She growls.

"I thought you knew?" He asks.

"Of course I didn't." She says looking back towards Hop and shaking her head. She begins to pace.

"That asshole told me you were always away. So I never called and he made me think that you didn't want to talk to ne anymore." She says.

"He told me to stay away from you. I was in the way." Hop repeats those words Joyce's ex husband said all those years ago.

"That son of a bitch." She looks away from Hop to think. She then turns and bites her bottom lip. "Its been almost 10 years since that happened." She shakes her head.

"It's 1980, it has been 10 years." Hopper corrects.

"You've been out of my life that long?" She tries to comprehend how long it's been. She couldn't believe it.

"It wasn't by choice."

"I know Hop." She looks up towards him and places her hand within his.

"You know you've always been number one for me. Always worried about you more then myself." He says holding her smaller hand within his.

"I know, that's how I've felt with you. Why do you think I'm so worried about you. please Hop, ease my worries and let me know where you're staying." She says tightening her hold on his hand.

Hopper sighs. "In my truck."

"Hop."

"I have enough room right now." He explains. "I just need to find a job."

"You know they're still looking for someone for the police station." She explains knowing he would be perfect back in his old job.

"It's a cheif position." He says making sure she knew.

"So?"

"So, me a cheif? That's a joke." He scoffs.

"How? You know the job, they know you. Florance loves you and wishes you never left. You're perfect for the job."

"I don't know." He says thinking about his drinking problem.

"Hop, at least tell me you'll try." She says. "It will get you out of your truck and help you make enough money to buy a place to live." She explains. "I mean come on, Cheif Hopper. It's got a ring to it." She smiles.

Hopper sighs and smiles soflty. "I'll try." He says starting towards the door.

Joyce take him by the arm hand stopping him from walking away, Hopper turns around and lookw to the shorter woman.

"Hey if you want to hear what I have to say about Diane wanting your blessing. I would say give it to her. Not only is she moving on but it will help you move on too."

"You think its that easy?" He asks raising his eyebrows.

"Hop, I've been in your shoes. I know it's not going to be that easy. I'm still working on myself after Lonnie had an affair with a woman that is a few years older then Jonathan." She explains.

"I'm sorry."

"I am too Hop, but listen. You'll find your window and you'll finally be free from the pain and hurt. It just takes time." She tightens her grasp on his hand. "I don't want this to change you like it's changed me. Let her move on and you'll be able to move on too."

"Have you moved on yet?" He asks.

"I hate the bastard, so yeah but doesn't mean I'm not scarred from the pain."

Hopper nods.

"I'll try to move on Joyce. I'll even try for a job I know I'm never gonna get."

"Never say never Hop." She pulls him for his arm and into a hug.

He rests his head on the top of hers and tightens his arms around her for comfort.

"I promise Hopper, things will get better." She whispers into his chest.

"I promise." She repeats.