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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Birth (infancy) (08/20/09)

TITLE: Real Riches
By Joni Andrews


The elegant atmosphere was fitting for their anniversary. Derek Koning slid a plush, velvet jewelry box across the table towards his wife, Helen.

"Happy twenty-fifth, Sweetheart," Derek said.

Helen held the box and smiled knowingly. She opened the lid and pulled out a dainty chain with diamond studs embedded in the gold. One of many, many such gifts. She thanked Derek, trying to sound enthusiastic.

Funny. After all these years, he still doesn't know I don't really care for such gifts.

"I have the most beautiful present in the world for you, Darling," Helen said, a warm glow on her cheeks.

She pushed a small cardboard box towards Derek and he carefully unwrapped the package. Inside were a pair of yellow hand-knitted baby booties. Derek lifted them out between forefinger and thumb and stared.

"What the...?" He dangled the boots in front of him, disgust registering on every feature of his face.

"Well, Darling," Helen hurriedly explained, "Apparently I am not one-hundred percent infertile after all! I'm fifteen weeks pregnant. I've been waiting for you to notice."

"You're kidding!" Derek dropped the booties on the table and wadded up his napkin on top of them. "You have got to be kidding me." He rolled his eyes and cursed.

Helen's face went white. "Honey, I know it's a surprise, but..."

"A surprise? Ha! It's a shock. A freakish nightmare. I don't know what foolish dreams you've been tending in that head of yours, Helen but you can forget it. I guarantee you, this is not in my plans. Cripes! You're forty-four years old."

Helen sat stunned. She wanted to remind him that his mother had given birth to him when she was forty-four but she was too numb and hurt.

The chauffeured drive home was silent except for Helen's occasional sniffle. When they pulled up to the gate, Derek spoke his plan. "Tanner," he addressed the driver, "I am going to need you tonight. Bring the other car around. I'll be staying at our city home for a few days."

"Derek, why are you doing this?" Helen began to cry.

"Helen, you need time to think. I do not want that...that..." he pointed aggressively at her stomach. "There is only one solution and you know it. Now you let me know when you've decided to get this taken care of and out of the way."

Helen put a protective hand over her belly and got out of the car--walking in a stupor, to the house.

She stayed in bed for three days and refused all food except tea and a little toast that the staff brought her.

On day four she asked for the car to be brought around. "I am going to Mr. Koning's office." she said.

Helen took the elevator to the fortieth floor and entered "Koning and Associates'" large office.
She walked timidly up to the reception desk. A very pretty woman sat in her chair, filing her nails. She was young and blond and had an eye-catching, full figure. But what Helen stared at, was her plunging neckline...for at her throat sat the exact same necklace Derek had given Helen for their anniversary.

Just then, Derek entered the reception area. "Bonnie, why didn't you tell me my wife was here?" Helen caught the emphasized word. So did Bonnie, for her hand flew to her neck.

Helen backed away, horrified. She turned and ran down the stairs outside to the waiting car. "Tanner. Please. I need to be alone. You'll understand if I ask you to take a cab home." Helen opened the driver's door and tugged at his sleeve until he got out of the car.

Helen got in behind the driver's wheel Tanner's protests. She drove hard and fast, tears blurring her vision. She knew what she she was doing and where she was going.

The bridge.

It was a long way down...all I have to do is steer a little too far to the right. The wheel will catch and it'll be over...

And then, Helen felt a little flutter in her tummy.

One year later

Helen gazed at the sleeping baby. He lay peacefully in the crib she had just bought from the Salvation Army thrift store. She leaned down to plant another kiss on his sweet cheek, whisper, "Goodnight, Simon," and breathe in his delicious baby smell.

Helen sat down and looked at her last night's journal entry.

a baby's sleeping breath on my neck is heaven

taking time to snuggle is worth it

children are a gift from God

Simon saved my life. Not the other way around.

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This article has been read 690 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Yvonne Blake 08/28/09
Wow...wow! This is filled with so many emotions! I love the ending. Well done!
Lisa Harris08/31/09
Wonderful story...enjoyed reading it...and it really does sparkle! Great Job!
Karlene Jacobsen08/31/09
I love that: The baby saved her life, not the other way around. Beautiful story.
Ada Nett09/01/09
Wow! This was extremely well-written! Your MC was vivid and real and your story had an excellent message.
Jacob Drollinger09/01/09
Well written, engaging piece. As the sole male critiquer so far, though, it's hard to believe that a man could be that cold and callous. I suppose if you are not a Christian, it is possible.
Cherie B.09/01/09
Wonderfully well written. I enjoyed your story tremendously. Good job!
Sarah Elisabeth 09/01/09
Oh wow! wow, wow! you're a beginner??? lol. Beautiful. The only red ink I have were for some typos
Catrina Bradley 09/01/09
The husband's anger shocking his wife was a shock to me. She didn't know her husband at all, did she? Such a sad story, with such a joyful resolution!

A couple things didn't ring "true" - I wonder that she didn't have ANY idea he didn't want children? Also, how long had he been working there that she'd never been to his office before to meet the receptionist? Minor things that could just be me.

Some GREEN ink (to grow on): Spice up your narrative with more "showing" - for example "The elegant atmosphere" - describe it so we can see the elegance instead of telling us it was elegant. Write with your senses and make the reader see, smell, hear the atmosphere.

The dialog is emotion-filled. Great story telling, and the ending is simply wonderful!
Jan Ackerson 09/02/09
Excellent story for this level! My only red ink would be for you to take Catrina's advice; she said what I would have. Read winning entries in Masters and Advanced to get the hang of "showing, not telling".
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/02/09
I loved this all the way through, beginning with the title. The details were excellent, yellow booties, same necklace, off the bridge (a thought), crib from Salvation Army, and more. For me, you chose just the right ending.
Bryan Ridenour09/02/09
Very well written. Loved the ending. You will not be in Beginner's long. Well done.
Pamela Kliewer09/02/09
I agree, you won't be in Beginner's long! This was emotion packed.
Deborah Porter 09/03/09
Hi Joni. I just wanted to leave a quick note to congratulate you on your Highly Commended award in Level 1, and to let you know you also did extremely well overall, ranking 34th out of all the entries for the week.

If you would like to see the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

Anyway, congratulations again and well done!

Just a quick reminder about this year’s Page Turner Contest for 500 members. If you have a novel in the works (even just the first chapter), this contest is a must to enter:

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)