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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Like a Fish Out of Water (10/24/13)

TITLE: The House That Mother Built
By Leola Ogle
~4th Place


If only she would say she loves me. I thought it would get easier when I became an adult, but it still hurts. I snap the suitcase shut and turn to face her. “I think that’s everything, Mother.”

She’s in the center of the room, glaring, arms crossed. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t let Marta help you with this, Caroline.”

“I’m capable of packing the few remaining items I have here. Besides, Marta hasn’t stopped crying.”

“Crying? What does Marta have to cry about?”

Because Marta loves me. I spent more time with her, our housekeeper, than I ever spent with you, Mother. I think these things, but don’t say them. I slowly survey the room, a kaleidoscope of emotions playing through my heart and mind.

“Did you know this room was my sanctuary when I was growing up? This and the stables.”

“Those nasty stables and horses! I blame your father for that.”

I sigh and rub my temples. “I wish Daddy would’ve lived. I’ve missed him every day since I was eight. He’s the only one who made me feel like I belong in this family.”

“Pfft! That’s nonsense, Caroline. Of course you belong in this family.”

I stare at Mother with a mixture of sadness and compassion. She doesn't have any idea. “When I was little, I would tell myself the hospital gave me to the wrong family, that somewhere there was a mother who was searching for her daughter.”

“Caroline, if you’re trying to make me feel guilty it won’t work. I offered you every opportunity your brothers and sister had.”

“I wasn’t good at sports or popular like Marcus and Lionel. I wasn’t beautiful and petite like Elise. You started her in beauty pageants when she was a toddler and dragged me along to help her get dressed. Do you know how lonely I felt? I never measured up, didn’t fit in. I felt like the square peg trying to fit into a round hole.”

“It’s not my fault they were popular and successful and you chose to work with dirty, nasty homeless people. I tried to talk you out of marrying that director of the homeless shelter. What a waste!”

“His name is Jonathan, Mother. He’s the best thing to happen to me.”

“You’re just jealous of your siblings, Caroline. How is any of that my fault? And I suppose you think I should ask your forgiveness. Isn’t that what you Christians do?”

I swallowed, choking back the tears. “Elise is in rehab, Marcus has an alcohol problem, and Lionel is on his third marriage. And I forgave you years ago, Mother, when I realized my value wasn’t in measuring up to your expectations. I feel sorry for Elise, Lionel and Marcus. You put such pressure on them, on all of us.”

For a brief moment there was raw pain in Mother’s eyes, but she clamped her jaws and shook her head. “That’s just like you, Caroline – gloating in these minor setbacks with your siblings. You’ll see, they’ll be okay. They have my blood.”

And you always made me feel like I didn’t have your blood. I was gangly and awkward and you acted embarrassed that I was your daughter. The tears came then despite my efforts to hold them back. “Mother,” I choke out. I’m that little girl again wanting to belong, to be loved. “I love Elise and Marcus and Lionel very much. I pray for them every day. And I love you, Mother, and pray for you.”

Dare I hope there’s a softening, a tenderness in her eyes? Again she shakes her head as if to clear her thoughts. “I don’t need prayer. Look around you, Caroline. Do you see this house, the acres it sits on, the riding stables, tennis courts, gardens, and pool? What more could I want?”

“Oh, Mother!” It’s a whispered moan. I grab the suitcase and duffel bag and leave the room.

“Your husband didn’t even have the dignity to come inside to help you?” Says Mother, following me down the stairs.

“You told him he’s not welcome in your home, remember?”

Marta is standing at the foot of the stairs, hands clasped and tears streaming down her cheeks. I sit my things down and embrace her. “Thanks for loving me,” I whisper.

I walk outside to Jonathan, my heart breaking. Please say you love me, Mother.

Jonathan clutches my hand as Mother watches us drive away from the home where I never fit in.

Accept Jesus as Your Savior Right Now and be Certain of Eternal Life.

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Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 10/31/13
Impeccable story with a clever approach to the topic at hand. You brought the MC's pain and anguish to be loved by her mom to life.

Nicely done.

God bless~
Charla Diehl 10/31/13
Perfect title for this gripping story of childhood pain that followed your MC into adulthood. What a pity for the mother to have missed out on the love being offered so freely. So happy that Caroline had not held a grudge, but rather had forgiven her mother, which helped her own heart to heal. I felt like I was watching this entire scene unfold before me. Good job.
Virginia Lee Bliss 11/01/13
I found this story very compelling. It held my interest to the end.

Particularly poignant is the feeling of the MC that when she was born, the hospital gave her to the wrong family. I wonder how many people feel that way.
Grace Merkey11/04/13
This sad story is very well written, one can easily empathize. Hopefully, some mother will read this and realize she needs to change.
Don V. Standeford11/05/13
way to pack a bunch of emotional energy into a small short story. very real and yet artistic at same time.
C D Swanson 11/07/13
Congratulations! I knew this was a winner!!

God Bless~
Beth LaBuff 11/07/13
Oh wow, Leola! The heartache here is gut-wrenching. You created an amazing story (beginning with your title). Super congrats on your EC!
Jack Taylor 11/07/13

You hooked my heart and pulled me along willingly on this one. Reality rarely lives up to the fairy tale endings we long for. Keep up the great work. Congrats. Jack
Danielle King 11/07/13
A sad story but great for the topic. Congratulations on your EC.
Ellen Carr 11/08/13
Congratulations on your EC placing! It's well deserved. Your heart-breaking story is well told and amidst the sadness there are lessons of attitude to be learnt. Well done!
Bea Edwards 11/12/13
Bitter sweet look at the principle of reaping and sowing.
Nicely written and congratulations on your EC placing!