Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
A/N: Here is Part II of the Faith, Hope and Love Series. The song for this one is "You are my Hope" by Skillet. Sorry it's been so long. You know how real life can get and now I am also working on an original fiction series with my closest friend. I'm not sure if it will be posted on Fictionpress, but if it is, I will post the link on my FF page. And now...
Brad Van Ackerman stood on the rooftop terrace and surveyed the view of the New York City skyline. He looked to his left at the lights of the Empire State Building winking at him in the near distance. The skyline at night was something he'd always enjoyed, but tonight he couldn't seem to muster any interest in the scene spread out before him. No, his thoughts were occupied elsewhere. He looked down at Madison Avenue, some fifty-two stories below him and watched the traffic meandering along the famous street, observing a few couples entering and and exiting the exclusive French restaurant.
He turned and sat on the ledge, heaved a soul-deep sigh and scrubbed a palm over his face. One would assume that just being named the president of Van Ackerman Industries would have him beyond thrilled. Instead, here he sat after the fete given in his honor as the housekeeping staff finished cleaning up the remnants of the rooftop celebration. Brad loosened the tie on his Armani tuxedo and tugged at the collar of his shirt.
"What's wrong with me?" he muttered to no one in particular.
Indeed it would seem like this young man had the world at his fingertips, being the next in line to inherit a business that consistently did well on the New York Stock Exchange and was a global powerhouse. But here he sat, looking as if he had instead lost it all.
"There you are, darling!" his girlfriend Melinda called out as she sashayed toward him in her Versace fire engine red gown that clung to her. "I've been looking everywhere for you," she cooed, draping her arms around his neck as she fluttered her lashes coyly.
Brad groaned inwardly. He'd hoped that he'd managed to give her the slip; a hint that he wanted to be left alone. Count on Mel to ignore it and do exactly what she wanted. That's how she'd always been in the past year that they'd been together.
He loosely placed his hands on her waist and smiled, though it never reached his eyes. "Now Mel, I thought I told you to go on home and I would call you when I arrived at the office in the morning," he admonished gently, pecking her lips.
"I know, but I just couldn't wait that long. I was thinking that maybe you would like to...come back to my place tonight?" she questioned, her full intentions becoming clear to him as she toyed with the collar of his shirt.
"He pulled back, removing her hands. "Mel, you know how I feel about taking things to such a level. I do not desire that kind of a relationship outside of marriage."
Mel rolled her bright blue eyes but pasted a smile onto her face. "Such antiquated notions if you ask me; so okay then, when do we make it all 'official'? You know I love you, Brad," she murmured, trying to lean closer to him.
"I-I don't know, Mel. I'm not ready to jump into wedding plans, let alone begin a marriage. I have so much going on right now." He turned away from her and gripped the building's edge.
Melinda's eyes glittered angrily. "So I guess our own parents' thinking that we're perfect together isn't enough for you, huh? she asked, hands on her hips.
"It takes more than that to convince me, but this isn't just about you, Melinda. I'm just not sure about anything anymore."
"So the past year...means nothing?" Mel whispered, stricken by his admission.
"I don't know, Mel. I don't know what's real and what isn't. I-I need to be left alone; I'll call you tomorrow," Brad said tiredly.
"Don't bother. If you don't know that you want to stay with me, then what do we have, really? I believe I will take Joel Waterton up on his offer to escort me to the ball next Saturday. At least he knows what he wants. Good-bye, Brad." She sauntered off as he buried his face in his hands, then stared blankly at the city scene before him. He knew that he cared for Melinda, but not enough to call it love.
"Brad," his father called out to him. "Why is Melinda leaving by herself? You should be taking her home since you are her soon-to-be intended," he chided.
"Dad, that was all yours and Mom's idea. You were the ones who thought that we were a perfect match socially and all that." Brad turned to face his father, raking a hand through his hair in frustration.
"What do you mean 'were'? His father questioned tersely. "Do you have any idea of the connection that will be established between Van Ackerman and Coffield when the two of you marry? Don't throw it all away over a silly notion like love. Look at us! I am very fond of your mother. Don't get me wrong son, but we didn't originally marry for love. It was a social match between our parents."
"I can't marry someone I don't love, Dad, but that's just the tip of the iceberg."
"What are you saying, Bradley?"
"I'm not sure what I want out of life, Dad!" He threw up his hands while giving his father a look, begging him to understand how he was feeling. Unfortunately, Calvert Van Ackerman didn't see things in the same light.
"Why should that matter? Every decision-the schools, your apprenticeship-was made with you in mind, son. Your mother and I carefully considered everything-"
Brad held up a hand. "That's just it, Dad. You and Mother made every decision for me! Did you ever once consider what I wanted? Did you allow me to make a decision on my own?"
Instead of considering Brad's argument, he looked affronted. "So this is how you repay us for all the sacrifices we made for you? Everything we ever did was always for you, and now you dare to throw it back in my face by saying that this isn't what you wanted. This is preposterous! Now, you will apologize to Melinda and take her to that ball. Not only that, but I expect an announcement forthwith! No more procrastinating. I will see you tomorrow, bright and early." Calvert left abruptly; Brad stared at him in astonished disbelief. Then again, this was typical Calvert Van Ackerman. Why should he be surprised by his father's demands? He would never be permitted to actually make a decision on his own, not as long as his father was around. Even if he left, he knew that his family would stop at nothing to find him, either that or cut off his funding, making it impossible for him to make a life for himself.
Brad knew he didn't want to spend his life with the pampered and spoiled Melinda Coffield and continually be under the watchful eye of not only his, but her father as well. To him, it seemed like life was being controlled from all directions and he had no say whatsoever. This thought deeply depressed him. He was tired of being a puppet. Maybe he'd show them all that when it came to the final decision, that could not be stripped away by anyone. He looked over the edge at the busy street below. It really wouldn't take that much to go over...would it? He carefully contemplated over the details then sat on the ledge, his legs dangling over into nothingness. After staring down for what seemed like an eternity, he took a deep breath and steeled himself.
Brad remembered a snippet of a sermon he had heard not too long ago. He'd attended a different church one Sunday morning while his parents took an all too rare vacation. His father was "...far too busy for such frippery," but for once, Mother put her foot down and off they went for a four-day excursion to Italy. Even though they checked on him often, he'd managed to get away a couple of times to enjoy a taste of freedom. One of those times was the above-mentioned church visit. He'd decided to forgo the family church that had been 'home' for generations and attended a small congregation he heard about from someone in the office pool. The service was nothing like he'd ever seen before! They sang with joy and danced, but it was the sermon that reached out to him and tapped him on the shoulder as if to say "Hey, this is for you.". The pastor spoke of hope for what seemed like hopeless times. "...Never forget that when all seems lost, look up! God is there, even when it seems like He isn't..."
He remembered feeling like maybe there was a ray of sunshine, albeit small, somewhere. Then his parents came home and their pastor came to call on them, wondering where they'd been that morning. When his father heard that he hadn't attended and sent their regret at not making it that day, Brad thought that the lecture on appearances and family integrity would never end.
"Yeah, where were You when that happened, huh?" he scowled, looking to the sky.
"Oh, He was there, trust me," came a voice from his left.
Brad turned suddenly, catching himself quickly. "Who are you and what are you doing here?" he addressed the man standing there as if dressed for the earlier party, the tie to his tux undone and hanging around his neck. He stood, leaning against a post, his hands in his pockets and his brownish- blonde hair impeccably tied back in a ponytail.
The man gave him an enigmatic smile, but it was the eyes that drew Brad in. They were an aqua in color and it seemed like they had seen several lifetimes.
"I'm Gabriel and I was here the entire night. You were too...preoccupied to see me before now, I guess," he shrugged.
"Gabriel?" Brad questioned, staring at the other man oddly. "I don't know a Gabriel...I don't think, anyway..." he murmured, scanning through all the personnel he knew of through his mind.
"Well, I was just hired on a few days ago and Dara invited me here tonight."
"Dara...Oh yeah, Dara! She's from the office pool, right?"
"That's the one," Gabriel nodded. "I've known her for years."
"Oh? So are you two dating or something?" Brad winked slyly.
Gabriel chuckled softly. "Nothing like that. I've just looked out for her since she was young, that's all."
"Ah, like a guardian angel, right?"
The mysterious smile returned. "Something to that effect. Anyway, I noticed that you look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Want to talk about it?"
Brad gave him a weird look. "We just met. It isn't anything you could help with anyway." He sighed and turned back to the ledge.
"Well, sometimes it just helps to talk about it and who knows, maybe I could offer you a fresh perspective."
"I don't see how it would. It won't change how things are. I'd have to go home eventually, unless...," he peered over the edge.
"Why would you want to end things like that? Is your life really that bad that you wish to end it?" Gabriel gazed at him, deeply concerned.
"Try having your life planned out for you from day one! I would be completely surprised if Mother doesn't have the number of children for me to have planned already and a new home and nursery commissioned," Brad shouted. "I can't do anything without word somehow getting back to Father. He disapproves of anything I'm interested in."
"So you're saying that you have no hope of living your own life, that you can't do anything to change it?" Gabriel folded his arms and cocked an eyebrow at him.
"That's it, yes."
"Has anybody ever told you that Yeshua (Jesus) died to bring hope for all? Things are not lost at all! Turn to Him and He will help you and give you that hope to make it through."
"That's all well and good, but what do I do with my parents? If I leave to start my own life, they will surely cut me off."
"Have you ever thought that maybe it's past time to stand up to them and be your own man?" Gabriel replied with a trace of impatience, but reined it in. "Look, maybe they will cut you off without a penny to your name, but you are giving up your self-respect if you just continue to be their puppet. By going out on your own, you become your own man; to find who you were meant to be in Yahweh (God). Let me tell you this; He's never given up on you, so why should you give up on Him before you even really give Him a chance? In Romans 5, it says: 1. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with Yahweh through our Messiah Yeshua, 2. through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of Yahweh. 3. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4. perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5. And hope does not disappoint us, because Yahweh has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. The only way you have lost all hope is if you go through with what you're thinking. If you leave, times might be hard, but you will always have hope to lean on to help you get through those tough times that hit all of us. I tell you, I have seen people go through worse. I've seen them lose seemingly everything they had overnight, but still looked to Him to get through. Remember that sermon, Brad. Pastor Ford was right on with that one. Don't give up and don't give in. That is hope, Brad. Not giving up."
"Why should God care? Doesn't seem like he has before," Brad muttered.
Gabriel sighed softly and glanced heavenward. "Brad, He loved you so much that he sent His son, Yeshua, to die for you. That is the greatest hope of all."
"I'd heard all of that before, but it just seemed like some far-fetched story. Out-of-reach, you know?"
"Oh trust me, Bradley Van Ackerman, it's as real as us standing here right now. With Him, you are never alone. It might seem like it sometimes, but he is there, watching you. Sometimes it's up to you to make the move."
Brad gazed skyward for several minutes, then turned and noticed that he was alone. Funny, he never heard any footsteps retreating. He got off the ledge and moved over to a stripped-down table. The rental company would come for those tomorrow. He sat down and thought about everything that Gabriel had said, then bowed his head in silent prayer.
"Please show me what to do next," he whispered. After a few moments, a sense of purpose filled him and he got up, determination in his eyes. "Yes, it's time," he murmured as he got into his car and drove to his bank and withdrew everything in his accounts.
Arriving to what was once his home, he sat down in his father's office and waited, knowing that he would make his way in here soon. Several minutes later, Calvert entered and saw Brad.
"I see that you have finally made your way home," he spoke, disapproval clearly in his voice.
"Yes I have, Father. But I won't be staying," Brad replied, looking his father squarely in the eye.
"Whatever do you mean? Have you been drinking, Bradley?" Calvert peered at Bradley suspiciously, leaning closer to see if there was any alcohol on his breath.
"No Father, I haven't. Not a drop."
"Then what is this nonsense about leaving? I already told you what you must do and you will do it."
The familiar hopelessness threatened to overcome him, but he met his father's steely glare head-on.
"No, I will not. I am leaving and beginning my new life elsewhere. It's time that I do what I feel I need to now."
"And just what is that, son?" Calvert leaned back in his chair, resting his feet on the desk.
"I'm not sure yet, but I'm sure I will, once I get there. God is with me, so I know He will guide me in the right direction." Brad smiled confidently.
"God? He's too far away to care about what we do down here," his father scoffed. "We must do for ourselves! Now come on, go on up to bed and forget this foolish idea," he soothed.
"God is closer than you think, Father. I wish you could see that. When you wake up in the morning, I won't be here," Brad replied tiredly.
"Then you will lose everything. The trust fund, the house I was going to give to you and Melinda, your place in the company...everything!"
"If that's the way it must be," Brad got up and moved upstairs to his room. He took out his luggage and began packing what he was going to take. He came downstairs to find his mother on the sofa.
"Don't leave, Bradley. Your father will take everything from you if you go through with this. What is so bad about doing what is expected of you?" she pleaded her case before him.
"Because none of these things are what I want. At first, I was worried about having no money, but I know that God will help me through." Brad smiled and kissed her cheek.
"Oh Bradley, what has happened to you?" she sniffed and took out a handkerchief.
"For the first time I have hope. I pray that you and Father will find it too." With that, he picked up his bags and walked out the door, feeling lighter than he had in...forever.
A/N II: Okay, this one may have been a bit on the "preachy" side, but I felt like it was needed in the story. Hope you enjoyed it anyway. Next and last in the series is "Love".