Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)
TITLE: Unseen Arms
By Tracy Walshaw
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From the living room window, Jenny watched Jake take off in a cloud of dust. She closed the curtains and went to the phone. Dialing the familiar number of her closest friend, her heart sank deeper with each busy tone.
Jake walked into the dimly lit bar, his boots crunching the peanut shells carelessly tossed on the floor. Only a few patrons occupied bar stools, so unlike the rowdy crowd he was accustomed to on weekends. He passed an older man, who looked at him blankly before looking back to the silent television in the upper corner behind the bottles of whiskey and gin.
Jenny flopped down on the sofa, frustrated. No one to talk to, no shoulder to cry on. Anger began to fill the space vacated by hurt. The remote control, thrown in a fit of rage, lay on the floor in pieces. She could not summon the energy to get up and turn the channels manually (what was this, 1960?), and she scanned the room for something to fill the time until he came home, if he came home. Her eyes came to rest on a book she had not picked up for ages, one gathering dust on the bottom shelf of the small table beside the Lazy Boy. She went over and picked it up, dusting the cover with her hand.
“Fight with the wife, huh?” the older man asked. Jake answered with a grunt. The older man shifted a bit in his seat. “I used to fight with mine too, ’bout every weekend. I got right tired of it, though, and finally gave in.” He paused a few moments, lost in thought. “You know what? After a while, I didn’t even miss comin’ here. I got so I liked being with her, doin’ little things for her ‘round the house. I liked seeing her smile when I finally got ‘round to fixin’ something she’d asked me about a million times to fix. It did more for me than anything I’d found in a bottle.”
Her anger subsiding, Jenny read words she had forgotten; how forgiveness was not a request from God; it was a commandment. And someone to love; a gift from a loving, unselfish Father. She felt the sting of impending tears and lay the book on the sofa as she headed for the bathroom.
“Let’s see, she died and you’re here, missing her?” Jake asked, willing himself not to roll his eyes at the sappiness of the man’s story. Wasn’t there a country song that went something like that?
“Oh, no. She's alive and well.” the man answered, giving a wry smile. “After I fixed up the place, she kicked me out. She and her new husband live there now. And I deserved every bit of it.” he said, shaking his head. “She was a wonderful woman, and she spent too many nights crying, praying for me to change. But it wasn’t me who changed; it was her. She lost all trust, all desire to try and change me. By the time I realized it, it was too late.”
Jenny stepped out of the bathroom, freshly showered and perfumed and wearing his favorite dress, battling the tomboy inside that loathed anything but comfortable jeans and soft tees. She heard his truck pull up, the gravels spraying and crunching under the tires as he screeched to a stop. She took a deep breath and hoped he had calmed down just a bit. She heard the truck door slam, his boots on the porch steps, and the screen door open. Her heart beat wildly in her chest; she envisioned him throwing his clothes in a bag and leaving, never to return.
He stood in the frame of the door, looking down, and then he raised his eyes to meet hers. They were red from tears and dark with shame, and he came towards her quickly, taking her into his arms before she could say a word. A love deeper than words enveloped her as she held him tightly. And then she felt a third set of unseen arms quietly surround them.
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